It’s a feeling almost everyone can remember from their childhood: a fresh layer of snow coats the ground and a peaceful silence hovers in the crisp winter air. Children are eager to make their way out to the nearest hill to go sledding. Last month, a group of University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) engineering students were actually able to indulge in this childhood pastime, but with an educational twist. At the opening night for the 2017-2018 sledding season at Ober Gatlinburg, a sledding and snow tubing park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, these students debuted and tested three prototype sleds they had designed with support and mentoring from the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). The event also gave students the opportunity to talk to members of the community about their innovative designs and their experience working with IACMI partners.
While this project may have brought back nostalgic memories of winter days spent sledding down neighborhood hills with friends, it certainly wasn’t child’s play. Instead, it was an opportunity for students to take what they had learned in the classroom and apply it through hands-on experience designing products and working with a variety of different composite materials, including carbon fiber, basalt fiber, and glass fiber. The project was a holistic lesson in prototype development from start to finish and challenged students to innovate.
While the majority of today’s recreational sleds are made of traditional plastic, sleds made of composite materials can be lighter in weight and more durable – two extremely important characteristics for evaluating sled performance. The engineering students involved in this project gained knowledge in every step of product development including evaluating materials, working with manufacturing and molding equipment, using design software, and validating products. The partnership with IACMI on this project meant that students were able to work with and learn from industry experts and gain new exposure to the field of composites.
IACMI members involved in this project include Mafic, Ashland Performance Materials, Huntsman, Polynt, Chomarat, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Magnum Venus Products. Read more about the sled prototype project here.