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Integrated Innovation Institute

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student participants in Rethink the Rink pose with members of Covestro and Pittsburgh Penguins teams

MIIPS Students Score at Rethink the Rink 2023

MIIPS students put innovative thinking to the test in annual competition

By Jess Ignasky

Over spring break, MIIPS students Mei Tamaki and Nila Gao participated in the 6th annual Rethink the Rink Make-a-Thon, a yearly event that highlights a partnership between Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Covestro

Each year, students are challenged to develop a solution that makes hockey safer without compromising game performance. Past year’s problem spaces have included creating safe designs for dasher boards, goalie helmets, and protective padding. This year, students were challenged to create shot blockers for players’ hockey skates to protect them from being hit with the puck.

students wearing different colored shirts sit at three long tables and listen to a speaker at the front of the room

(Participants in the Make-a-Thon learn about the problem statement.)

At the professional level, the puck is coming so hard that when you are blocking a shot with your skate, you don’t have a whole lot of protection,” explained Senior Director of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark Turley. “A lot of the players don’t like to put any extra material into their skate. It adds weight and bulk; in their minds, it slows them down. They are looking for every edge they can get.” 


After hearing the problem statement, students then learned about the Covestro materials that would be available to create their designs with. Mentors from the Covestro team were also on-site to aid students in understanding the materials and how they might be utilized in product creation. 

a student wearing a purple shirt explains her team's design to two mentors. the design, a hockey skate with a special shot blocker, is laying on the table in the forefront of the image.
(Nila Gao (MIIPS ‘23) explains her team’s concept.)

“All of the mentors provided a lot of different insights from different perspectives. Covestro provided a lot of insights on the materials, and professors and people working at Tech Spark provided more design feedback,” shared Nila Gao (MIIPS ‘23) “It was nice to hear different perspectives so [our team] is not constrained to our own ideas. We could feel ourselves iterating within every conversation we had.” 

On the third day of the Make-a-Thon, teams began designing their products. With access to systems in the Tech Spark lab and materials from Covestro, each team developed a different product for the problem solution.

“Our team’s goal was to create a product that players would actually want to use. We focused on the inside of the skates and developed a new sock called Shock Sock,” explained Mei Tamaki (MIIPS ‘23).

four students wearing black shirts are at a tall wooden table. on the table, various materials like plastics, foam, and paper are spread out. students are conversing with one another and inspecting the materials.
(Mei Tamaki (MIIPS ‘23) and fellow students work with Covestro’s materials.)

“We found that current shot blockers are attached to the outside of the skates and players don’t want to use them due to appearance and bulk.”

"The advantage of the Shock Sock is that it not only protects the players from foot and ankle injuries, it also supports the player’s acceleration by adding springs to the shin. This allowed us to add value to a product that players actually desire to use." 

On the final day of the Make-a-Thon, students presented their designs to leadership from Covestro, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bauer Hockey, and more. Mei Tamaki placed first alongside the gold team and Nila Gao placed fourth with the purple team.

a team of students wearing purple shirts stands on a stage. the students are in front of a large poster board containing their design for the project. one student points to the poster board and the others are looking along at them.
(Nila Gao (MIIPS ‘23) presents with the purple team.)

I teamed up with students in mechanical and civil engineering,” shared Mei. “Working with other programs' students enabled me to deepen my knowledge of prototyping using Tech Spark's equipment, such as 3D printing and laser cutting, and simulation methods to demonstrate ideas, which I will need to do service/product design in the future, as well as expand my network.”

Photos © College of Engineering

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