A high tech way to follow the bouncing ball

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
After watching a couple of guys bounce golf balls to see which ones would go highest, Auburn’s Ron Paitich decided there must be a better way to do it. So Paitich, who describes himself as not much of a golfer, but a good physicist, came up with an invention that measures how well a golf ball bounces. “I sat down with a glass of wine and figured out some algorithms,” he said Monday. “It works remarkably well. It is intrinsically exact.” The golf ball COR (coefficient of restitution) tester, known as BestBall, is now available as an iPhone application (“app”) and soon will be available in a handheld device. BestBall measures the ball’s bounce based on the sound it produces “Most golf ball testing is not practical for the average golfer because it costs thousands of dollars for the equipment,” he said. “This one you can put into your pocket.” It’s an idea that has promise for those seeking to improve their golf game. “Tiger Woods plays a ball that doesn’t drive very far but is very controllable,” Paitich said. “Most amateur golfers try to get as much distance as they can. So they want a ball that bounces higher so it will drive farther when they hit it.” It’s not that golf balls are manufactured with inconsistencies, but that each brand has its own characteristics, he explained The golf ball tester is Paitich’s first commercial application, but he has numerous patents in technical fields. He moved to Auburn from the Bay Area in 1981 to be vice president and general manager of Coherent’s Auburn campus. “The community knew of me as the driving force for bringing Coherent to Auburn, and for my interest in technology,” he said in an e-mail. In 1989, Paitich left Coherent to form his own business, Terranova Scientific. The business, which manufactures vacuum gauge controllers for use in applications such as eyeglass coatings, has since been sold to a Bay Area company, but Paitich continues his involvement. Once the idea came to him, his latest venture didn’t take long to develop. “From concept to first working model was a matter of months,” Paitich said. “We went through four design cycles for the hand-held version.” Then a friend suggested it would be a good idea for an iPhone app. Paitich contracted with AISD Inc. (Absolute Integrated Systems Developers) in Grass Valley to develop the software program for the app. “This is the first one we’ve done,” AISD Vice President Dick Myers said. “We were interested in doing iPhone apps and thought this was the perfect way to jump in there and code one up.” The application also appealed to Myers’ engineering sensibility. “It is a neat gadget,” he said. “It uses physics to determine the coefficient of restitution — how bouncy the ball is. It is a very simple but clever application of physics to that problem.” AISD engineer Carrie Lery did the coding for the project, he said. Once AISD submitted the application to Apple, it took only a couple of weeks for approval. The app is now available for $2.99. A company in Hong Kong is manufacturing the hand-held device, with the first shipment due in a couple of months. It will sell for $24.95. The iPhone app and the handheld are available at the BestBall Web site, and Paitich is seeking other marketing opportunities. “I’m thinking we may participate in some golf expos or sign up with some distributors or something like the Brookstone catalog that carries technical gizmos,” Paitich said. He’s also expanding the idea into ping-pong balls — available soon as an iPhone app — and eventually maybe even to basketballs and baseballs, he said. Gloria Young can be reached at --------------------------- more information Visit: www://