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Rethink the Rink prototype
A prototype of foot protection for blocking pucks.

Bold Initiative To Make Hockey Safer Returns for Sixth Year

CMU students strive to make ice hockey safer for players regularly blocking 100 mph shots.

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Kaitlyn Landram
College of Engineering

For the sixth year in a row, Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering(opens in new window) joined forces with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Covestro and Bauer Hockey to make ice hockey safer. The annual make-a-thon, Rethink the Rink(opens in new window), offers students the opportunity to lend their brainpower and creativity to innovating new technology in the sport. 

This year students developed shot blocker equipment to protect players’ lower legs and ankles from opposing teams’ shots. Despite how often injuries occur when players use their skates to deflect the puck, there is no standard shot blocker equipment. 

Over the course of a week, CMU engineering students developed and tested basic prototypes in the school’s makerspace with input from hockey professionals from the Penguins and materials experts from Covestro. Their challenge was to uncover material solutions that strengthen player protection without inhibiting performance.

BME faculty Ros Abbott

CMU Biomedical Engineering faculty member Ros Abbott (center) talks with two student Rethink the Rink participants.

At the end of the week teams presented their prototypes to a panel of expert judges from the Penguins, Covestro, Bauer Hockey and the College of Engineering. Each team was recognized for their accomplishments. 

“What (the students) have accomplished, in terms of understanding the problems we face with our players, and coming up with four very different, but four very innovative products is pretty incredible,” said Kevin Acklin, president of business operations for the Penguins. 

The winners this year included:

The Rethink the Rink teams

The Rethink the Rink teams pose for a group photo.
  • Best Overall: “Shock Sock: The Shock-Blocking Sock” Beatriz Holzbach, Brian Check, Lewis Rockwell and Mei Tamaki.

  • 1st Runner Up:Scotty Skates” — Autumn Franks, Nila Gao, Anna Paek and Tiara Rathi.

  • Most Innovative: “The Integrated Protection Boot” — Norah Czajka, Samantha Der, Aimee Li and M.J. Smith.

  • Best Prototype: “Hex Plates: Full Foot Protection” — Luca Garlati, Chris Oh, Jimmy Ray and David Berndt.

“Working with the materials experts at Covestro and the Pittsburgh Penguins is truly a rewarding experience for our students,” emphasized Bill Sanders(opens in new window), the Dr. William D. and Nancy W. Strecker Dean of the College of Engineering. 

The first Rethink the Rink in 2018 focused on redesigning dasher boards. Segments of the students’ designs have since been installed at the Penguin’s practice facility. Other past projects include goalie helmets, glass and dasher board intersections, and protective padding. 

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