Ceramic coffee mugs created by students at the University of Missouri-Rolla recently survived 12-foot falls onto asphalt in Coco Beach, Fla., to win the American Ceramic Society’s national Mug Drop Contest.
A team of four UMR students created four mugs for the contest. At least two of the UMR mugs survived drops from heights that proved to be too much for the competition.
About 10 university teams competed in the contest. Each team was allowed to enter multiple mugs that met contest requirements. The mugs were all made out of ceramic material and fired at certain temperatures.
Mugs were dropped from a starting point of six inches from the asphalt. The height grew as teams advanced.
Only one member of a team was required to successfully drop his or her mug from each height, so some of the UMR students were able to minimize damage to their personal mugs until the later rounds.
Sheena Foster of UMR says she got the “most-dropped mug” award.
“My mug was kind of a sacrificial mug in the team effort,” says Foster, a junior in ceramic engineering from Camdenton, Mo. “I dropped it from every height. I think it eventually broke at about nine feet and was eliminated.”
Contestants were allowed to continue, as long as their mugs could still hold liquid.
Jeffrey Rodelas, also from Camdenton, says his mug never even chipped and, in fact, “it actually dented the asphalt a few times.”
After designing and strategy meetings, it took the UMR students about two weeks to create their mugs in anticipation of the contest. The mugs were made in a slip-cast mold and heated to 1,550 degrees Celsius.
Rodelas, a senior in ceramic engineering, says the keys to making a strong ceramic mug are to keep the handle small and make sure all of the surface edges are rounded.
UMR finished second in the Mug Drop Contest in 2005. In addition to Foster and Rodelas, the other members of the winning 2006 UMR team are Dan Aiken, a senior in ceramic engineering from Ballwin, Mo.; and Patrick Driemeyer, a senior in ceramic engineering from Manchester, Mo.
The students belong to a local chapter of the Keramos fraternity, a ceramic engineering organization that sponsors the mug drop event.