BOULDER, Colo. — There’s a special partnership brewing between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are comfortably sitting at first place in the standings, and their bench is like no other — thanks to students at CU Boulder.
It all started a few years ago. The Bucks director of performance, Troy Flanagan, used to work with the US ski team in Colorado Springs. Flanagan reached out to Jack Zable, a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at CU, with an idea.
He said “we would like a chair that could be adjustable,” recalls Zable. “And by the way, we’d like to warm up the leg muscles, because when they get in there’s an optimum temperature that the leg muscles should be at.”
Students from CU’s mechanical engineering department delivered on that request. The new bench chairs were installed at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee at the beginning of last season. It was such a slam dunk that the Bucks have continued their relationship with the Buffs. This year, they’re working on a new project.
“When a player gets injured, you put a hot pack on them,” Zable says. “It’s a messy deal, and the heat escapes and only lasts a maximum of a half hour. What [Flanagan] wants is a pack that lasts for two hours and is not messy.”
“Our main focus is consistency,” says Rolando Trujillo, a senior mechanical engineering student at CU and leader of the hot packs team. “We want something that holds its heat for the whole game, so the players can focus on the game and not worry about this thing on their arm.”
Later this month, the students will head to Milwaukee to deliver the first prototype of the hot pack to Flanagan and the team.
“We’ll get some feedback, interact with the players and see how we can make our design a little bit better,” says Trujillo. “That’d be really cool to meet Giannis for sure. Being in their presence is going to be really cool, and working on something that matters and can make their lives better is rewarding for me.”
It’s a reward that means more than any extra credit ever could.
“I know the previous teams have seen it with the chairs,” adds Trujillo. “To be in my life, in my real world career with my friends and family and see something I made on ESPN or whatever, would just be incredible.”