Extreme Engineering: The Science Behind the Skateboarding Build

October 18, 2017

For the second time since 2015, the Engineering Garage at the University of Louisville Belknap campus will play host to the Skateboard Build, a workshop for youth that teaches the science behind the extreme. Part of Tech Fest, a biannual convention intended as a meeting ground for technology professionals for learning and networking, the Skateboard Build engages students in the multi-faceted process of developing a functional board over a two-day session.

Sponsored by Marwood Veneer, the class is an extension of their business. According to Jim Martin, “Kids kept calling us to buy maple for skateboards. We started selling these packs of maple. We partnered with Dawn Yankeelov, of the executive director and CEO of Tech Fest and she suggested we have a class.”

The workshop looks at the physical properties of the board, from the density and physical properties of the material, to the aerodynamics required for a smooth, satisfying ride.

Marwood explains, “There is vacuum pressure. There are shapes and how you use those shapes to make the skateboard more effective. The hardest part of skateboard building is the mold.”

According to Mike Miller, Speed Faculty who oversees the Engineering Garage, “you have to sketch out your design. You look at the strains and stresses on the material. We have two types of presses for the class. We use the vacuum bag press and the hydraulic press.”

The team at Marwood learned from their first build session, which employed skater Jerry Eaton as an instructor. The team ventured to Canada where they learned to craft boards on their own, a skill that they have employed at their subsequent build sessions, of which have occurred at various venues in the region, are taught by in house staff.

For Martin, it’s all about engaging the students in the world of wood working and STEM fields. He explains, “This is our second tech fest. The first included Dr. Adrian Lauf as well as two Speed school students. We had 14 kids altogether. It was great. We really want to teach these classes to get kids excited about STEAM.”