NM Tech Undergrads Win Second Place in Mug Dropping Contest, Feb. 15, 2006

Will Guenley and Matt Burr

by Shawna Carter

Right: A couple of mugs: Will Buenley and Matt Burr, with their prize-winning mugs.

SOCORRO, N.M., Feb. 13, 2006 — Clumsy coffee drinkers take note: New Mexico Tech undergraduates Matt Burr, Will Guenley, and Jonathan Smith were awarded second place in the American Ceramic Society’s Ceramic Mug Drop Contest, which recently was held at the society’s annual meeting in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

Burr and Guenley comprised the first team from New Mexico Tech to ever participate in the contest. Smith helped in the design and creation of the mugs, but was unable to attend the actual competition. New Mexico Tech materials engineering professor Deidre Hirschfeld and Tech graduate student Seth Price acted as advisors to the mug-dropping team.

The national ceramics contest, sponsored by the Keramos organization, has simple rules: mugs must be made entirely of ceramic materials, student-made, and able to hold 16-20 ounces of fluid after being dropped.

Each mug entry is dropped from set heights in 6 inch increments. Competing teams are able to pass on each drop, until they reach a height at which they ascertain their mug will survive intact. The mug that survives the highest drop and holds the requisite amount of liquid, without leaking, wins. Prizes are also given for the most aesthetically pleasing/creative mug.

“While other designs incorporated toughening mechanisms and fibers, the New Mexico Tech mug had a ‘sacrificial bulb’ at the bottom of the mug,” Price explains. “This bulb was filled with reticulated ceramic foam, which is created by soaking a sponge in ceramic slurry.

“When the mug is fired, the sponge burns out,” he adds. “When the mug is dropped, the bulb and reticulated ceramic foam then absorb the energy of the impact, and save the liquid-carrying part of the mug.”

Even though first place in the contest went to perennial winners University of Missouri-Rolla, the New Mexico Tech team managed to beat out long-time contenders University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for its second-place finish at the mug-dropping competition.