MORGANTOWN, W.VA. - Mountaineers are tough -- tough and strong enough to hold a wooden platform with a fellow Mountaineer on top doing pushups for every point scored by the ‘Eers on Mountaineer Field.
The wood science program in the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design partnered with Army Reserve Officers Training Corps to help cadets celebrate Mountaineer touchdowns in their own unique way.
Army ROTC cadets have attended WVU football games with the same pushup platform for over a decade. With six ROTC members holding the weighty platform on their shoulders, the Mountaineer mascot or another cadet will do pushups for each home team point as the lower student section counts along.
After years of use, wind and weather, the platform had deteriorated leading Army ROTC Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. David Sherck and his Recruiter John Dowling to reach out to the Davis College’s wood science and technology program for help.
The tradition of ROTC cadets performing pushups at football games has occurred at other colleges and universities across the nation since the 1990s. The tradition was implemented at WVU in 2012 with the construction of the original platform by WVU Wood Science.
“The old platform, while very nostalgic, was starting to wear,” said Dowling, a 1989 ROTC alum and retired colonel, who returned to WVU as the Battalion’s recruiting operations officer in fall 2013.
Although Army ROTC initially suggested modifications to the original board, Levente Denes,
associate professor of wood science, suggested making an entirely new board with a totally new design. With the help of graduate assistant Jonathan Norris and post-doctoral candidate Balazs Bencsik, the three of them created an improved touchdown celebration experience for the cadets.
“The old platform was very heavy,” Denes explained. “So, our goal was to make something strong yet much lighter than the original.”
With materials supplied by Army ROTC, Denes, Norris and Bencsik got to work in early October to have the board ready for the primetime television spotlight of the Baylor vs. WVU game.
Denes and Bencsik worked 20-hour days and into the night during the week leading up to the game. They were able to get the board completed for use in the Oct. 13 game.
“Making this platform has involved a lot of time—especially on the part of Balazs and Levente—not to mention sweat and even a little bit of blood,” Norris said.
Each side of the board has a unique inscription to pay tribute to WVU, Army ROTC and the wood science program. The platform features “Let’s go Mountaineers!” and the Army ROTC Mountaineer Battalion motto, “Climb to Glory,” which were carried over from the previous platform. “Army ROTC” and “WVU Wood Science” were added to acknowledge the two groups involved in the project.
“The pushup platform gets media exposure on national television,” Dowling said. “We wanted people watching the game to know we are.”
In addition to the inscriptions, the newly improved platform has internal space to store the carrying pegs, which slide in and out for easy transportation and storage. The board is smaller, lighter and better able to withstand the elements, as it’s made of marine-grade wood. It took engineering know-how to build the platform according to its intended use and structural load, as well as the requirements for something more portable.
“This is a good opportunity to show how we can combine the beauty of the wood, wood-based materials and engineering," Denes added.
Denes said he, Balazs and Norris wanted to show support for the football team and their pride in West Virginia by using what they thought was the most appropriate material for an Appalachian team: wood.
Wood is a valuable natural resource, especially to West Virginia. It generates $3.2 billion annually for the state’s economy, making West Virginia the second-leading hardwood state in the U.S., according to the West Virginia Department of Economic Development. Wood products manufacturing businesses include sawmills, veneer plants, furniture parts producers, and kitchen cabinet and other wooden furniture makers.
“The cadets are extremely pleased with the final product,” Lt. Col. Sherck said. “Not only is it highly functional, but it also incorporates some eye-catching struts on the bottom that mimic the Flying WV. The wood science program’s hard work will be on display at every WVU football home game for Mountaineer fans to admire – and for cadets to practice their pushups on – for years to come!”
The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit davis.wvu.edu. Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.
PHOTO 1: One of the four inscriptions included on the sides of the Army ROTC pushup platform.
PHOTO 2: Levente Denes (left), Balazs Bencsik and Jonathan Norris stand with the new ROTC pushup board.
PHOTO 3: An Army ROTC cadet finishes doing pushups on the new platform for the number of points scored by the Mountaineers while four others hold the board.
CONTACT: Leah Smith
Public Relations Specialist
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
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