The ultra-violent hockey seen in the classic 1970s movie Slap Shot may be a thing of the past, but player safety remains important in the sport.
With that goal in mind, materials firm Covestro LLC is working with Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL to improve the safety of the sport. The three groups this week are hosting the second annual Make-a-thon in Pittsburgh, which includes a Rethink the Rink program.
"When we started this a year ago, the focus was on redesigning the boards and glass in an attempt to make the game safer for players of all ages," Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a news release. "This year's project focuses on the players' equipment and could involve everything from helmets and gloves to shoulder pads to goalie masks."
The Make-a-thon brings together teams of CMU engineering students for a week-long event at the school's Makerspace. Students will have access to advanced materials and technical expertise from Covestro, a global leader in production of polycarbonate and other specialty resins, as they explore ways to improve protective equipment that's already designed for player safety.
The students' challenge is to uncover material solutions that will strengthen player protection, without inhibiting player performance. Officials said that this year's Make-a-thon participants have a starting advantage over last year's group.
"We're a stronger, more practiced team, having made significant progress since our first Make-a-thon," Covestro Chairman and CEO Jerry MacCleary said. "We've spent the better part of a year transforming those initial ideas and concepts into a next-generation dasher board prototype, which is in production now.
"There's a lot of momentum behind this effort, and it will continue to grow as the initiative evolves," he added.
This week, the students will design and develop basic prototypes, which will be unveiled during a presentation and awards ceremony March 15. The ceremony will take place in the newly named Covestro Innovation Rink at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa.
"We now have a literal innovation arena to test the concepts and ideas coming out of Rethink the Rink," MacCleary said. "It's a fitting backdrop for a collaboration that is already pushing boundaries and delivering promising results."
CMU College of Engineering interim dean Jonathan Cagan added that when students leverage each other's backgrounds in different disciplines to solve a common challenge, they gain "a valuable experience in real-world teamwork."
"When you add in coaching from the professional experts from Covestro and the Penguins to guide their problem-solving process, it's a win-win situation," Cagan said.