The Powerhouse Discovery Centre will celebrate Science Week with lots of activities on the weekend of 16-17 August. Our example of the Super Sopper, an Australian innovation that has been removing excess water from sports fields for forty years, is one of many objects that will star in behind-the-scenes tours. Liquid nitrogen, fire and chocolate are a few themes explored in a bagful of spectacular science shows that all visitors can watch. There are plenty of hands-on science experiences and object talks that are open to all. But numbers are limited for behind-the-scenes tours and some workshops, so early booking is recommended. And don’t miss the bees, python, lizard and frogs and the chance to talk to their expert handlers.
So what’s the Super Sopper story? It’s a classic ‘backyard inventor’ yarn, but without the hard luck angle. Gordon Withnall was an inventor, and he enjoyed a game of golf. He had begun inventing at the age of seven and had enjoyed success with several of his ideas. So when a ball landed in a puddle while he was playing golf in 1974, a fellow player suggested he find a way to clear unwanted water from playing fields. He hit on a solution very quickly, and within three days he and his son Len had created the first machine. They built up a successful business called Kuranda Manufacturing. Len still runs the company today, selling Super Soppers of different sizes to sporting clubs around the world. Ours is a mere Minnow, in a range that tops out at Whale.
As with many clever inventions, the Super Sopper’s method of operation is simple. A layer of foam plastic around the roller sops up water as it moves across the grass, and the water is then squeezed through perforations in the roller into a storage tank. Withnall’s invention has made many people happy, be they players, spectators, sports administrators or sponsors, as it allows more time to be spent playing outdoor games and more action to be provided for spectators to enjoy. Some machines are used on building sites after rain, and a version is made for soaking up industrial oil spills. Success has encouraged copycats, including an Indian product cheekily dubbed Supersopper, but Kuranda Manufacturing has stayed ahead of that game through ongoing innovation and high quality production.
Written by Debbie Rudder, Curator