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input output in an Octopush's garden.

Forget about the skates and padding. Strap on a diving mask, fins, and snorkel, and start playing hockey underwater. Underwater hockey, also known as octopush, is an aquatic sport played in a swimming pool. English diving instructor Alan Blake invented the sport 50 years ago.

In octopush, two teams attempt to "flick" the puck (also known as a "squid") into the opponent's 10-foot-wide goal using foot-long wooden hockey sticks. The puck, which is similar to the one used in ice hockey, weighs between 42 and 49 ounces. The playing area is 40 to 49.5 feet wide and 69 to 82.5 feet long, and the action takes place approximately 10 feet underwater.

The teams consist of six active players, with another four on the bench. The name octopush derives from the time when the game was played with eight players to a team.

The biggest challenge for the sport--besides the need for players to be able to hold their breath for long periods of time--is puck handling.

"Being able to guide and control the puck close to the stick is essential for successful play," said Charles Simms, a veteran octopush player currently with the Ipswich (England) Octopush Club. "At the same time, the puck has to slide very smoothly on the pool tiles to enable fast, accurate passing."

Underwater hockey enjoys popularity in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Netherlands, and France. To improve the puck handling, and hopefully spur wider interest in the sport, Simms enlisted the help of Bayer MaterialScience to design a new version of the puck.

"I was mainly concerned with improving the grip between stick and puck," Simms said.

Toward that end, he decided to modify the traditional octopush puck, which already had the good slide and resiliency required by the sport, and modified it to make it more manageable.

The traditional octopush puck uses a lead core covered on the top and underside with an elastomer-modified acetal copolymer. Simms's modified puck adds Bayer MaterialScience's Desmopan 385 along the edges. Simms chose this thermoplastic polyurethane mainly for its gripping properties, and wear and cut resistance. It also exhibits virtually no swelling when wet and displays good resistance to chlorinated water. The material also maintains its flexibility in cold temperatures.

The top and underside of the puck are clipped together. The narrow thermoplastic edge is molded on so that it forms a flush overlap with the top and underside. Snap connections are used to mechanically fasten together the two halves of the puck.

"This design has edges made from soft, elastic TPU, which ensures the puck doesn't damage the tiles if it hits the pool floor at an angle," Simms said.

The new puck, which is being manufactured by East Essex Tool Makers in Clacton, England, has met with great success. The Confederation Mondiale des Activites Subaquatiques Underwater Hockey Commission has dubbed it the "Simms Puck," and named it the official puck of the 2006 Underwater Hockey World Championships to be held next August in Sheffield, England.

The commission cited the puck for its great stability and handling and superior durability. It also commented on its vibrant red color, which should make it more visible than previous pucks.

Now if Simms could only solve the pesky problem of players constantly having to come up for air. And maybe he could sign up some corporate sponsors. Then octopush might be ready to give football--either American or European--a run for its money.
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Author:Ehrenman, Gayle
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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