Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers

Winter Olympics

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olympicsEvery four years, the greatest winter athletes in the world come together to compete on the premier stage, the Winter Olympics. This year, as I’m sure you know, Sochi, Russia is hosting the games. Before the games began, the majority of publicity centered around the infrastructure and dangerous plumbing systems in Sochi. Thankfully, there have been no significant issues, other than a bobsledder getting stuck in the bathroom and having to punch his way out. The games are at their peak right now, with several medal events each day. It’s pretty incredible watching what some of the athletes can do. The Women’s Hockey gold medal match today was an instant classic, unfortunately our neighbors to the north came out on top. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the biathlon and curling, and have enjoyed rooting for Gracie Gold to win the gold (it’s crazy she’s only 18 years old). Needless to say, watching the games has been a great stress reliever and provides an opportunity to support the USA.

Unfortunately, Sochi is several time zones ahead of the east coast, so all the events air live early in the morning. We try not to check social media and the internet about results, and watch replays of the day’s events in the afternoon after class. I may have to skip class tomorrow so I can watch the semifinal in men’s hockey, pitting bitter rivals USA and Canada. With Olympics occurring every two years (summer/winter), I want to take advantage of the spectacle and view as much action as I can. As an engineer, I find it extremely interesting to look into the math and science behind things occurring in the everyday world. Events at the Olympics offer a plethora of opportunities to apply mathematic and scientific principles to describe what is happening. Discovering why and how things happens sparks my interests and highlights many fundamental ideas that people don’t think about when watching something. Consider a figure skater and the torque they produce during spins, or a bobsled and the interaction between ice and metal skates. Science is always present.

I found an intriguing website devoted to science and engineering of the Olympic Games. Check it out here: https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/winterolympics/

The National Science Foundation elicits the help of athletes and explains concepts from each of their events. There are videos about slopestyle skiing and the halfpipe, and also the high-tech suits worn by speed skaters. There are entries about the science between ice and snow, figure skating physics, and the mechanics of a bobsled. The article I found most interesting covered injury and recover, and centered around biomedical technology, namely pioneering work in tissue regeneration. The athlete highlighted was Lindsay Vonn, who unfortunately injured her knee before the Games. The video describes the ACL injury sustained by downhill skier, Lindsey Vonn, and the related work of Dr. Cato Laurencin at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Laurencin specializes in a type of biotechnology that would use a special mesh to help the body generate new ACL tissue to replace tissue that has been damaged by injury. While ACL repair has not yet been accomplished using this method, the technology has great promise, when fully developed and tested, for athletes like Vonn to make full recoveries. The research is still in its early stages, but just imagine the profound impact it could have on the world. This type of technology could be applied to organ regeneration and even limb regeneration. It would change the world. I find the biomedical sector of chemical engineering to be innovative and a subject I’d like to learn more about because of the direct impact it has on humans. I think it would be rewarding to work toward improving quality of life for humans. Check out the site, it shines a different light on events when you know some science behind the abilities of the phenomenal athletes.

https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/winterolympics/

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Author: Ben Dunmire

I am a sophomore Chemical Engineering major at Lehigh. On campus, I am the president of Club Baseball and a member of AIChE and NSCS. Outside of school, I enjoy the outdoors, fishing, and any type of athletic activity. You can reach me at bcd216@lehigh.edu.

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