Incubator Tenant’s Skeleton Sled Hopes To Help USA Earn Olympic Gold

The ProtoStar v5 hopes to help the USA Skeleton Team Win Olympic Gold

Grant Schaffner (far right) and his team

Grant Schaffner (far right) and his team

Sliding head first on a metal sled atop an ice track with the capability of reaching 90 mph sounds insane, but that is exactly what one local engineer and his team did for the sake of science and the USA Olympic Skeleton Team.

ProtoStar Engineering, a local startup company inside the Hamilton County Business Center, designed the sled underneath some of the fastest Skeleton Olympians in the world. On December 13, 2013, Matt Antoine won the Men’s Gold medal at the Lake Placid Skeleton World Cup using the ProtoStar v5 skeleton sled. Additionally, Noelle Pikus-Pace took the gold medal in the Women’s competition- using a sled frame designed by her husband, but the outer shell “pod” is designed by ProtoStar.

ProtoStar’s President Grant Schaffner and his team came up with the design of the skeleton sled after taking the term ‘crash course’ literally. Schaffner and his partners wanted to experience the sled first-hand, taking turns going head-first down the track at Lake Placid.

“There is a moment when think you are going to die. Then the adrenaline kicks in and we decided to do it again- getting up to 70 mph,” said Schaffner.

He credited the ‘bodystorming’ approach to engineering (the physical act of brainstorming) for the creative concepts that went into optimizing the design.

“We came out with some bumps and bruises and a head full of ideas,” said Schaffner.

They had 115 ideas to be exact, aimed at reducing the vibrations for a smoother ride and making the sled more steerable by the athlete’s head and shoulders.

Working with another local company, Machintek Corporation in Fairfield, and deBotech in North Carolina; they were able to manufacture five sleds that are now the property of the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

The Sochi Olympics will be the ProtoStar v5’s second Olympic debut. The Protostar v5’s first gold medal was won by Katie Uhlaender (Fun Fact: her dad played for the Cincinnati Reds) in the 2012 World Championship.

ProtoStar Engineering is located inside the Hamilton County Business Center– the top scored incubator in the state by the Ohio Third Frontier. The business incubation program in Norwood is run by the Hamilton County Development Company (HCDC) that provides a wide variety of resources for startup and early stage companies, including multiple meeting rooms, an on-site business coaching staff, and entrepreneurial programming.