WVU finishes in top three for Materials Science and Technology Contest
For the first time in the history of the Materials Science and Technology University Ceramic Mug Contest, students from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University rose to exciting heights with successful ceramic mug drops and earned top placement in the competition.
Story by Tara Heffernan, Multi-Media Specialist
WVU’s Material Advantage and Materials Research Society— MA/MRS Student Club finished in the top three for the contest. The University Ceramic Mug Contest is an event held during the international MS&T Conference, with previous attendance ranging between 2,000 to 4,000 participants, and was hosted this year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from October 9-12.
“This was a very special award to receive because this was our first year competing,” said Charity Stepp, mechanical engineering student in WVU’s MA/MRS club. “We were optimistic in our design, but because of our lack of competition experience, we really didn’t know what to expect. We ended up beating much larger schools that have a much more extended competition resume.”
The students created a mug using materials meant to resist cracking. The mugs differ from common pottery, like vases or dinnerware, in that they contain high purity, high-temperature materials, like pure silica, alumina, and other pure oxide materials, as well as nano-materials to control strength and crack formation. The materials used to create this project are similarly used in rocket or space craft shields and ceramic body/vehicle armor and provide a high level of mechanical reliability. Because of this, making a shape of these materials is difficult, as they cannot be melted or casted to form the object nor are they formed like traditional clay pottery on a wheel.
To participate in this competition, each entirely student-led team created a ceramic mug that needed to survive increasingly higher drops. The students used CAD methods to design the mug and also three-dimensional printing to make the complex molds. In order to shape and form the mug, the three-dimensional printed mold was modified until the mug took a proper shape. The mug needed at least one fully functional handle and to hold 350 mL of liquid.
The mugs were judged both on strength and on aesthetics, so there was extra care put into the design of the mug as well.
“This is the first submission from WVU, and probably the state, ever. Even though I wasn't born here, I still feel immense pride representing this state at a level of competition like at MS&T,” said Matt Barre, senior mechanical and aerospace engineering student. “We learned a lot this year as a team that we'll be putting into use at the competition next year.”
The WVU chapters of MA/MRS work together to build awareness and interest in materials science, an interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of solid materials. Currently, WVU does not offer an undergraduate degree in in materials science and engineering. However, WVU’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department plans to offer new classes in the field in the fall of 2023. These classes will provide a foundation for students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in material science and engineering at WVU.
Incoming students choose Statler College because of the College’s adaptability around developing new programs and the College’s focus on providing students with experiential learning.
“I came to WVU because I loved the focus on hands-on experience in research and in design teams that you can volunteer for as a freshman in the engineering school. A lot of other schools only let you join these teams as a senior or graduate student,” Barre said.
“We hope that these fun engineering challenges in materials science and engineering will attract more students to this advanced science/engineering field (and into the MA/MRS club at WVU), and these students will be interested in taking the new class offerings in MS&E within the mechanical and aerospace engineering elective tract system starting in the next year,” said Ed Sabolsky, professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering and club faculty advisor.
“The participation of the MA/MRS student team in the competition is great not only for the participating students to gain valuable experience in competing and presenting but also for the College’s outreach and engagement activities as well as attracting new talent in materials,” said Kostas Sierros, associate professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering and club faculty advisor.
“The Materials Science and Technology technical meeting and exhibition is the long-standing, recognized forum for fostering technical innovation at the intersection of materials science, engineering and application. Each year, MS&T brings together scientists, engineers, students, suppliers and business leaders to discuss current research and technical applications and to shape the future of materials science and technology,” according to MS&T’s website.
The other members of the WVU club include Cole Klemstine and Kevin Tennet, graduate students in the materials science and engineering program. Sabolsky and Sierros have a combined total of over 40 years of experience in the materials science field and have been faculty advisors for the club since it began in 2015.
After graduation, Stepp plans to continue on to graduate school. Klemstine plans to work in the field of renewable energy, and Barre plans to work in developing renewable energy technology, either at WVU for a Ph.D. in materials science or begin working in the industry. Kevin Tennet is exploring options to further his education in the doctoral program here at WVU or finding a job similar to his research in semiconductor materials.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office: