Celebrating 53 years of The University of Akron Tire Mechanics Short Course: interview with moderator Benjamin Chung

Written by Admin
9 March 2024

With less than two weeks until Tire Technology Expo opens in Hannover, Germany, Tire Technology International delves into one of the event’s most established and respected courses: the four-day University of Akron Tire Mechanics Short Course, which celebrates its 53rd anniversary this year.

Charlotte Iggulden sits down with Dr Benjamin T Chung, former chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Akron, who retired in 2023 from the role of Tire Mechanics Short Course organizer and director, to discuss his 35-year history with the course, its evolution and influence in the industry, and his own research into heat transfer.


What is The University of Akron’s history with Tire Technology Expo and how has it evolved through the years?


The Tire Mechanics Short Course, known as Tire Mechanics Symposium in its early stage, was first organized by Dr Rudy Scavuzzo, department head of mechanical engineering, and was sponsored by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Continuing Education and Public Services at The University of Akron.

In 1976, Dr Scavuzzo invited five influential people in tire technology to serve as the pioneer speakers. They were Dr G Potts from General Motors Institute; Dr A Veith from BFGoodrich; Dr T Dudek from General Tire; Dr J Walter from The Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.; and Dr J Padovan from The University of Akron. Twelve years later, Dr Scavuzzo left the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Dr Benjamin Chung, department chair at that time, took over the organizing of the short course. During this period, many well-known tire mechanics experts were invited to join the team to teach this course. They were Dr M Trinko, Dr A Gent, Dr M Pottinger and Dr T McDonald. As of today, all of them except Dr Potts and Dr Trinko have retired from teaching this short course.

In 2004, Dr A R Williams, associate editor of Tire Technology International and former head of research at Dunlop in the UK, published an article in his journal. He concluded with the statement, “At a time when new and young people are entering the industry, it seems that the only high-standard course on tire technology is offered by Akron University in the USA. While Europe has the annual Tire Technology Expo Conference, there is surely an opportunity here for an academic establishment to create a similar program.”

After a brief communication with Dr Williams, I received a letter from Mark Fenner, director of Tire Technology Expo, and he invited us to offer the Tire Mechanics Short Course at Stuttgart, Germany, in March 2007 in conjunction with Tire Technology Expo.

The first tire course was overwhelmingly successful – it attracted almost 100 participants from all over the world. Consequently, we continued our offering every year at various cities in Germany, such as Hamburg, Cologne and Hannover.

In 2014, all members of the Tire Mechanics Short Course faculty received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tire Technology Expo Gala Banquet in Cologne. This was one of our fondest memories. But good times don’t last forever. Our course enrollment dropped significantly in 2020 due to Covid-19 and the poor economy in the tire industry. We had to skip the offer in 2021-2022 – this was a frustrating time – but we returned to Hannover in 2023, making a slight improvement in enrollment and looking to regain our past glory gradually.

What is your background in the tire industry and with The University of Akron? And what are you looking forward to in the short course this year and in the future?
I joined The University of Akron in 1969 as an assistant professor from the power industry and then was promoted to associate professor, professor, and then F Theodore Harrington Endowed Chair Professor. I enjoy teaching, research and public service. My areas of research include heat transfer with phase changes, heat transfer from extended surfaces, heat transfer in turbulent flow, and heat transfer in polymers (I always wanted to sneak one session of ‘Heat transfer in tires’ into the short course, but unfortunately, there was no time slot for me.)

My professional involvements include associate editor of the Journal of Heat Transfer ASME, editorial board member for publisher John Wiley & Sons and three technical journals in engineering and applied science. In terms of teaching, I have directed 32 MS theses and 18 PhD dissertations. I have also enjoyed collaborative work with my three post-doctoral fellows.

Just to mention a few of my honors and awards: Outstanding Reviewer Service Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); Outstanding Research Award from both College of Engineering and The University of Akron; Louis Hill Award for Outstanding Contribution to Engineering Profession from the College of Engineering; NASA Inventions and Contributions Award; Norbert Wiener Award from MCB University Press in London; Outstanding Alumni Award from National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan; Lifetime Achievement Award from Tire Technology International (although I don’t deserve it); and Life Fellow from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

What role does the course play in developing an engineer’s career and tire mechanics knowledge?
The Short Course covers a broad range of technical areas such as tire wear and traction, tire stress and deformation, tire components, tire compounds, tire material and tire manufacturing, the mechanical property of rubber, virtual tire modeling, vehicle dynamics and tire footprint mechanics. The course is too specialized to fit into the undergraduate curriculum in either the engineering college or polymer college at any universities.

However, the subject matters are in high demand by many engineers and scientists in the automobile, plastic and tire industries. The Tire Mechanics Short Course benefits both experienced engineers and beginners – the beginners can learn the fundamentals of tire technology, and experts get the opportunity to participate in in-depth class discussions.

Consequently, this course has been flourishing for the past 50 years without interruption (except by Covid-19). In recent decades, the course was offered concurrently with Tire Technology Expo in Germany every year and was held in Akron and Cleveland in conjunction with the International Tire Exhibition & Conference every other year. This gives course participants additional opportunities to interact with their peers in various organizations. In addition to our regular offering, the short course was also presented exclusively for the employees of General Motors in Detroit and Toluca (GM Mexico); Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio, and Luxembourg; Bridgestone Tire in Tokyo, Japan; DaimlerChrysler in Detroit, Michigan; and Nokian Tires R & D in Finland.

Our course instructors are world-class tire experts and accordingly, the course has attracted participants from all over the world.

Which tutors are participating this year and what are you most looking forward to discussing?
This year our participating faculty includes Dr Xiaosheng Gao, Dr James Cuttino, Dr Gerald Potts, Dr Annette Lechtenböhmer, Dr Mahmoud Assaad and Dr Ronald Kennedy. Since every speaker was given an additional hour in their presentation, they have extended their course content significantly. I would like to listen to all their presentations and discussions if possible.

Ben’s successor, Dr Xiaosheng Gao, will moderate this year’s course, which features speakers from Yokohama Tire and Goodyear Innovation Center in Luxembourg. +


Source: Tire Technology International

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