Student Creates Remote-Control Race to Promote Plastics

Published 05.20.2008

Student News
Polymer Engineering

Pennsylvania College of Technology student Benjamin J. Campana with a finished remote-control car and the mold he developed for students to form the cars.By John S. CendomaCollege Information and Community Relations intern

A Pennsylvania College of Technology student organized a competition for Pennsylvania high school students that involves plastics, science, math and remote-control racing.

Benjamin J. Campana, a plastics and polymer engineering technology student from Salladasburg, took on the venture as part of his senior project. His goal is to use the college's mobile plastics lab which travels to high schools throughout Pennsylvania in a new way to expose a different group of students to the plastics industry.

"This project will be going to a different group of high school students than the current mobile lab," he said. "This project is geared more toward the physics, math and chemistry students with college-bound interest in science and engineering fields."

Using a silicone mold that Campana created, students will make a plaster cast of a race-car body. They'll then use the plaster piece as a mold to vacuum-form a sheet of plastic to become the race car's body.

The high schools will use the college's mobile thermoformer a component of the mobile plastics lab in their own classrooms. The college will also supply the silicone mold, chassis and remote controls, plastic sheets from which the cars' bodies will be molded, and Campana's detailed rules and instructions.

Participants ultimately will compete with students from other high schools, with scoring averaged on three areas: appearance of the car, a technical assignment and racing skill.

The technical assignment includes five technical questions, including researching the material used to mold the car body polyethylene terephthalate glycol. Students also have to make several calculations, including determining the car's horsepower-to-weight ratio and the surface area of the thermoformed body.

Campana said the students have to answer the questions correctly, as well as show their sources and how they did their work in order to receive full credit.

The cars will be molded and the technical questions completed at each participating high school. The initial race was held on the Penn College campus.

Campana completed his senior project in December, and a group of students enrolled in a project management class for the spring semester took over in recruiting high schools for the pilot event, which took place May 16 following "The Penn College Plastics Experience." Bradley J. Stroup, of Mount Pleasant Mills, led that team.

"The benefits of doing this project will be the interaction of Penn College plastics students with different high schools in the area," Campana said. "The high schools will get to work on a project dealing with RC cars and get to make their own race-car bodies. By doing this, they will learn about different types of polymers, chemistry, math, physics and the understanding of plastic materials, thermoforming process and mold design.

"The overall objective is to get more high school students, male and female, interested in pursuing a career in plastics," he said.

Penn College's mobile plastics lab has been traveling to high schools throughout Pennsylvania for four years. When it travels to high schools, it is accompanied by volunteer Penn College students, who talk about the plastics major and assist with setting up the lab.

The lab consists of an injection molder, a blow molder, a thermoformer and a rotational molder with sheet material. The equipment symbolizes a miniature representation of the growing plastics manufacturing industry.

While that lab will continue to circulate to various schools, a second tabletop thermoformer will be available to visit schools participating in the RC car competition, offering an opportunity to incorporate high schools' science and math programs.

For more information about the plastics and polymer technology majors or other academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, visit online or call (570) 327-4520. To learn more about Penn College, visit on the Web , e-mail or call (800) 367-9222.