April 23, 2020
Choudhary’s Team Takes “Best Overall Design” in Rethink the Rink Competition
If you’ve ever had an injured shoulder or elbow, you know how painful it can be. For hockey players, these injuries are often just a part of the game, and something that they continue to play through. Thanks to this year’s Rethink the Rink competition, a partnership with The Pittsburgh Penguins, CMU College of Engineering, and Covestro, hockey players may soon have access to innovative safety gear for arms and shoulders that’s both comfortable and protective.
Rethink the Rink is a week-long Make-a-thon that challenged students, including sophomore Dhruv Choudhary, to find solutions that provide hockey players with a greater range of motion and flexibility—while still providing appropriate coverage.
This is the third year that a CEE student participated in Rethink the Rink. Choudhary says that he learned about the Make-a-thon from his advisor and was encouraged by former participants to join in.
He explains that equipment currently used in the NHL is often altered by players because it’s constrictive. But the changes decrease safety and protection. “The players’ shoulder and elbow pads are also known to slip-off upon impact and cause serious injuries,” states Choudhary.
He was assigned to work in a team with students he’d not met previously. The group collaborated to design an integrated shoulder-elbow pad sleeve that fits securely to a player’s body. The finished design not only provides comfort and mobility, it prevents slippage of the padding upon impact.
Choudhary admits that working with new people was challenging. He credits his design courses with helping him to understand personality types and team dynamics—as well as allowing him to identify strengths within the group. “I was quickly able to figure out how to voice my opinions without being dominant and how to work effectively in teams to achieve our goal.”
He recommended that the elbow pad protection be made up of smaller parts that could move with the elbow. “We developed a new pad that curls up and forms a solid protection layer when the elbow is bent,” he adds. The pad is able to provide a full range of motion, straightening out with the elbow when the arm is stretched.
Open communication and team decisions led to a product that was tested by professionals, including retired hockey players and scientists from Covestro, and awarded “Best Overall Design” in the competition.
“I am proud to have had a great team who navigated through all the difficulties and came up with a prototype that we all were proud of,” Choudhary says. “I had a great experience during this weeklong Make-a-thon.”