Prof. Hutchens and a team of students introduced basketball players to polymers, mechanical testing, and design through an outreach activity designed to mimic shoe sole structures. Campers, ranging from 3rd to 8th grade, were attending a week-long basketball camp run by the Illini Women’s Basketball coaching staff and players. However, for a short time, they transformed into scientists, learning about polymer microstructure by acting as polymer chains, and engineers, pouring, mixing, and troubleshooting their midsole manufacturing process. Midsoles were made using shoe-shaped molds, which campers would fill with a self-foaming, fast-setting elastomer material.
By changing the ratio of the two components, campers found they could control the energy recovery and toughness of the material. After an initial trial, many groups improved their midsoles by inventing new smoothing techniques, improving mixing, or decreasing their processing time. Overall, both campers and student volunteers agreed that the activity was a success.
Student volunteers included graduate students from Prof. Hutchens’ group (Matt Milner, Amrita Kataruka, and Bingyang Zhang), graduate student volunteers from the college of engineering (Ganesh Patil, MechSE; Jungwoo Shin, MatSE), and undergraduate volunteers from Bioengineering (Favour Obuseh).
Prof. Hutchens gave an invited talk at the 2018 International Conference on Deformation, Yield, and Fracture of Polymers (DYFP). Her talk, entitled “Cutting and the Failure of Hyperelastic Solids,” discussed recent results discovered by Ph.D. student Bingyang Zhang along with help from several supporting undergraduate researchers, including Steven Yang, Mary Cassidy, Bryan Bunch, and Andrew Shiang. In it, Prof. Hutchens discussed the sensitivity of a y-shaped cutting geometry to many of the material responses that affect traditional tear energies of rubbery polymers. The talk was well-received, resulting in fruitful conversations and several suggestions for alternate approaches to explore.
Prof. Hutchens and Matt Milner gave talks within an APS session entitled “Extreme Deformation of Polymers and Soft Matter I: Cavitation and Fracture” that was co-sponsored by the Polymers Division (DPOLY) and Soft Matter Group (GSOFT) and co-organized by Prof. Hutchens and Prof. Al Crosby (UMass Amherst). Prof. Hutchens presented the most recent results from the cavitation rheology technique obtained by undergraduate researcher Davin Bahk. Matt talked about the new instrument he has built to perform ballistic cavitation measurements. Their abstracts can be found in the links below:
Shelby and Matt repeated the ‘Sole Solution’ elastomer foam making and testing activity at this year’s UIUC GAMES Camp (June 19-23, 2017). Campers learned about polymers, effects of composition changes on mechanical response, and drop tests. Materials were evaluated through the lens of shoe sole design.