Mason Payne

Mason Payne, a seventh grader at Lakeway Christian Academy, is shown with his winning Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair experiment. He built the rotating club swinger to strike golfballs and measure distances on the school football field.

KODAK — Mason Payne, 13, of Kodak, recently competed at the 2021 Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair (SASEF), held at the end of March. Payne currently attends Lakeway Christian Academy in White Pine, Tennessee, as a 7th grader and a middle school golf team member. His project “Which Golf Ball Flies the Longest Distance?” was part of the Physics and Astronomy category and won multiple prestigious awards.

Payne received three awards in the junior division for middle school students, grades 6-8. He was the 2021 SASEF Overall 3rd Place Junior Division Award Winner; received a National Special Award from the Office of Naval Research for Excellence in Science, and he received a Junior Division Certificate of Excellence Award for exceptional merit in the Physics and Astronomy Category. Payne’s efforts garnered him monetary prizes, certificates and medallions.

Payne said he initially chose this particular project because of his interest in golf.

“I wanted to choose a science project with results that might answer my own personal question,” Payne said. “Every golfer wants to know which ball is the best for driving the longest distance. It helps lower your score. So I built a mechanical club swinger in the garage, and hit the balls on the football field for the experiment.”

“I used 4 different ball types to strike with the club swinger, from 2-piece to 5-piece,” Payne said. “Four rounds of 20 flights each gave me the data to show the Taylormade ball was the best performer and the Titleist ball the worst performer. I was surprised to learn that the most expensive ball was not the best in action.”

“It was a really fun project and the news of my awards is exciting,” Payne said. “I am very thankful for my science teacher and all of my previous science teachers who have encouraged me along the way. I never expected my project to place as well as it did. I am just really blessed.”

His science teacher is Kendall Bryant, science fair sponsor is Kasey Harkness, and golf coach is David Reed.

SASEF is the premier science and engineering competition for students in middle and high school for the 23-county regional area of East Tennessee. SASEF has promoted teaching intellectual inquiry through the scientific method in science, engineering and math since 1952, according to the organization’s website.

This eastern region science fair is sponsored by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and many local companies and agencies. It is held annually at the Thompson Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, but has been held virtually for the second year in a row. The regional competition is part of the Pre-College Research Excellence Program.

His winning project also qualifies to compete in the Broadcom Mathematics, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars (Broadcom MASTERS). This national program grants top projects the opportunity to compete nationwide for prizes and awards. Entries will be judged during the summer of 2021.

Payne is the son of Darryl and Lisa Payne of Kodak and the grandson of Melba Kelly and Cecil and Marilynne Payne of Kodak.