Free Radicals

The "ultimate" sport for plastics students
– tossing a plastic flying disc with the "ultimate" coach, their academic mentor

by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor. Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel except as credited.

FREE RADICAL: an atom or molecule having at least one unpaired electron: free radicals are usually reactive and unstable.

Ryan J. Steer, a senior in plastics and polymer engineering technology, considers his next move. Plastics students traditionally design a T-shirt for their major.

"I'd heard stories about Dr. (Kirk M.) Cantor – about how he used to be into freestyle Frisbee and that he competed in nationals 'back in the day' when he went to college," Pena said. "I think it's awesome that he hangs out with us and plays Frisbee. Every time we're losing a game, he calms us down and gives us advice. He's a great leader in the classroom and on the field."

Pena shows a disc produced in the college's all-electric Nissei injection molding machine. Students in plastics and polymer technology majors make two styles of flying discs in the department's injection molding laboratory. Molds for both discs – which are used as giveaways and to demonstrate injection molding to visitors – were designed and built by students. The newer mold makes a "distance disc," with more weight on the outer rim. Cantor was a member of the U.S. Team at the 1982 World Frisbee Championships. He shows his skills prior to the championships. Photo courtesy of Montgomery Journal (The Washington Newspaper Publishing Co.). Team adviser Kirk M. Cantor surveys the Penn College team's performance at a recent tournament.

And, are those rumors about Cantor's freestyle past true?

Indeed. Cantor co-founded the University of Maryland Ultimate Frisbee Club in 1979, during his undergraduate career majoring in aerospace engineering. The high point of his collegiate career was as a member of the U.S. Team for the 1982 World Frisbee Championships at Rutgers University, considered to be the birthplace of collegiate ultimate.

Photo from Cantor's college days. Photo courtesy of Kirk Cantor. Photo from Cantor's college days. Photo courtesy of Kirk Cantor.
Gerardo Pena, right, plastics and polymer engineering technology, studies the disc. The sport is a natural fit for plastics students, who frequently make flying discs for visitors to demonstrate injection molding.

Gerardo Pena is a bit in awe of his plastics technology professor – who also happens to be the adviser of his "ultimate" (the sport originally known as "ultimate Frisbee") team.

Free Radicals plan their strategy before the game. Brett K. Braker, '11, plastics and polymer engineering technology, asks: "got plastic?" Professor Kirk M. Cantor, far left, poses with members of the Free Radicals. The team comprises students, alumni and friends, most enrolled in plastics majors. Lance Richardson, a senior in plastics and polymer engineering technology, shows his form. During their traditional warm-up, team members run, stretch – and laugh.

"I'd never played Frisbee before, but I figured it'd be a great way to meet people and hang out," said Pena, a senior from Aspers. "If it wasn't for Frisbee, I might not have hung out with these guys or gotten to know them as well. Now, all my closest friends are people on the Frisbee team. It has definitely bonded us with a common interest outside of the classroom."

Evan R. Nordstrom, '08, plastics and polymer engineering technology, waits for an opening.

Nowadays, Cantor is highly regarded in the plastics field and on the Penn College "field" and affectionately called, simply, "Doc" by his plastics students.

Corvin K. Oberholtzer, a senior in residential construction technology and management, sets the disc in flight. Frisbee as artistry is demonstrated by William G. Smail, '11, plastics and polymer engineering technology. A quiet pause before the action. Evan R. Nordstrom, ’08, plastics and polymer engineering technology, joins current students in hot pursuit of an ultimate win. Kierstin G. Steer, a junior in technology management, sports a warm and colorful cap. A small object wields big fun. Pena plays defense. Ryan Steer enjoys a moment of pre-game camaraderie. And … they’re off! The line-up of Free Radicals moves forth into play. Kierstin G. Steer’s T-shirt says it all. The Free Radicals crew enjoys warmups and antics. The group runs, jumps and laughs their way through pre-game exercises. Richardson revels in the pre-game huddle. Nordstrom demonstrates dexterity in motion. Teammates exchange high-fives after a decent play. Nordstrom raises the frisbee to signal the start of play. Smail is intense in defense. Smail tosses a few before the start of a game.
Play increases in intensity. The disc and an opponent, right, move toward two Free Radicals. Oberholtzer spins and contemplates. Players cover a lot of ground during each game. The team jogs through its pre-game warm up. Friends like Rachel Tamewitz often lend a helping hand (and smile) to the team. With the flexibility of a gymnast, Oberholtzer, right, attempts to make a catch. Team members wait for the signal to start. Surrounded by opponents, Oberholtzer stays cool. "Back in the day," Cantor shows his Frisbee-catching skills.  Photo courtesy of Kirk Cantor. Oberholtzer's shades are the ultimate in cool. Chad M. Chervinsky, '11, accounting, enjoys the day's scenery. Oberholtzer makes a mid-air catch.

Watch plastics video

from an episode of Penn College’s award-winning documentary television series "degrees that work.TV." The series, produced in partnership with WVIA Public Media, presents careers in emerging technologies and offers free lesson plans, based on Pennsylvania Career Education and Work Standards, to K-12 educators.

Tracy Garis

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