Arlington Heights student developing sports mats

 
 
Posted9/26/2018 12:01 PM
hello
  • Mark Van den Avont, 19, a University of Illinois sophomore and Hersey High School graduate, is developing a new sports mat he says will be safer and cheaper than traditional mats.

    Mark Van den Avont, 19, a University of Illinois sophomore and Hersey High School graduate, is developing a new sports mat he says will be safer and cheaper than traditional mats. Courtesy of Mark Van den Avont

It was on the gymnastics mats as a senior at Hersey High School where Mark Van den Avont had the light bulb moment that led to his work as a budding entrepreneur.

While performing a back-flip dismount off a high bar, Van den Avont fractured two lower vertebrae in his spine, and landed on the foam-filled mats common to gymnasiums, schools and health clubs everywhere.

Now a sophomore at the University of Illinois, the 19-year-old Arlington Heights native -- who is fine now -- is behind a growing business to sell mats he believes will be safer, lighter and less expensive.

He's already developed a patent-pending polymer composite he hopes to use to make not only mats, but car and airplane seat cushions.

"Anywhere foam is absorbing an impact is where we want to go," said Van den Avont, who is majoring in mechanical engineering.

His company, HexNest, has space within a co-working center in downtown Urbana, where he also conducts tests in development of a prototype. He's taking preorders for the mats, expected to retail for $250, compared to $400 for traditional foam mats now on the market.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.