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Ohio State students make beer pong innovations

Photo Illistration by Andew Holleran / Photo editor

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For those tired of wet beer pong cups sliding around and looking for easy clean up, two Ohio State students are selling what they advertise as a solution with their new startup company, Pong Mats.

Pong Mats sells triangular rubber mats designed to “prevent cup movement, … (while allowing) for any style re-rack (in) a rubber material (that is) quick and easy to clean,” according to its website. Pong Mats also sells branded cups, balls and apparel.

Scott Scherpenberg, a third-year in industrial design, and Andrew Lien, a fourth-year in industrial systems engineering, came up with the idea for Pong Mats after watching a bartender fill shot glasses on a bar mat, which is a rubber mat that prevents wet glasses from sliding around.

“It kind of reminded me exactly of how when you line up the beer pong cups, you kind of do that same thing, and beer gets everywhere and the cups start sliding around. And that’s the exact same purpose the bar strips solve,” Scherpenberg said.

Blaine Zaffos, a second-year in aerospace engineering, said he likes the idea but doesn’t think he would buy it.

“It sounds like a good idea, but I don’t know if we would really use it because it’s just another thing to have to get,” Zaffos said.

Scherpenberg and Lien first made a prototype by gluing together bar mats into a triangle and playing with them for six or seven months while getting feedback from friends.

An entrepreneurship course Scherpenberg took prompted them to follow through with their idea by finalizing the prototype, finding a manufacturer in China and importing the mats into the U.S.

Lien said importing the mats was one of the hardest parts.

“There’s definitely been a few surprises as far as like, importing. That can be one of the biggest frustrations. … I think there’s something like 20 different fees just to get them in here. … The tough part is they load these on the ship, they ride on the ocean for 30 days and you just have to sit and wait,” Lien said.

While actually getting their hands on the mats was frustrating at times, Lien said watching the mats being used is the best part.

“Seeing people’s reaction, seeing them just instantly know how to use it and its purpose and the problem it’s solving is really cool,” Lien said.

It was parents’ reactions to the mats that surprised Lien.

“One guy came up and was like, ‘Yep, I know exactly what this is. My daughter loves beer pong. She would love these.'” Lien said.

Scherpenberg and Lien launched Pong Mats almost a year after building the first prototype with a 72-team beer pong tournament.

Scherpenberg and Lien also gave Pong Mats to The O’Patio and Pub for its weekly beer pong tournament.

The O’Patio and Pub did not return The Lantern’s calls.

“We want to do more partnerships with bars … and get people playing on the mats because when you play on them and touch them and see and interact with them, you’re much more likely to recognize the value as opposed to just opening up a webpage and seeing them,” Lien said.

Scherpenberg and Lien have more ambitious marketing plans as well.

“These are two things that are going to kind of take some planning, but we want to possibly send them to Rob Dyrdek (host of an MTV reality show) and Ellen DeGeneres,” Scherpenberg said. “Ellen is kind of random. My aunt mentioned it, but one of our biggest target is parents. They love them. They love the set and they just think its a really good gift.”

Even though Scherpenberg has three years of school left while Lien will be working after graduation, they said they will continue working together on Pong Mats and other projects.

“I think the future (of Pong Mats) has yet to be written. There’s a number of ways this could go,” Lien said. “We’re really just riding the wave. If it requires us to put in double the time that we normally do in the coming weeks, we’ll do it.” 

The Pong Mats basic kit includes two mats and six beer pong balls and sells for $25.99, according to Pong Mats’ website.

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