Professor Haake and the Royal Institution

Professor Haake has been working with the Royal Institution over the past few months to create a series of impressive videos exploring the world of technology in sport. They are available to view on the website but I’ve also embedded the videos below so you can view them on our blog too. Take a look below and let us know what you think!

Is it cheating?

Data collected over the last 100 years can demonstrate how technology and other factors have affected the performance of our top athletes.

For example, the two world wars and the introduction of automated timing systems in the 1970s saw times for the 100 metres increase. In contrast, the Olympic four-year cycle, new technologies and unique athletes like Usain Bolt are pushing the limits of human performance.

In the final Engineering Sport film, Professor Steve Haake looks at how technology has affected athletic performance over time and asks whether the science and engineering of today hold the key to the future of sport.

Are we now seeing athletic performances plateau?  How can new technology be used to gain advantage without compromising a level playing field and the essence of sporting competition?  If the introduction of technology leads to new rules and new games what will the 300th Olympiad look like in 1000 years time?

Watch the full video with related content here:

The grand unified theory of tennis

In nearly all sports there lies a conflict between the constant development of technology and the preservation of traditional rules.

Quantifying how new technologies might affect the outcome of competitive matches and ruling against those which upset the balance has become a preoccupation of the sports engineering field.

But is a ‘grand unified theory’ of a game really possible?

The sport of tennis has seen the development of such a model, a computer simulation that accounts for variables across the whole spectrum, from equipment to the environment in which the players compete.

This model, known as Tennis GUT, is something the sports manufacturers would love to get their hands on. However the ITF (International Tennis Federation) is using it to assess the impact of potential ‘game changing’ technologies (such as light-weight rackets) in order to preserve a natural balance between tradition and progression.

In the fourth film of his Engineering sport series, Professor Steve Haake looks at how this model has been developed, including which variables it accounts for and how these are measured and replicated under controlled conditions.

Watch the full video with related content here:

The sports measurement problem

To find improvements, we need to first find out how something works. To do this we need to take measurements and, for the sports engineer, this can be a bit tricky.

Although athletes can be studied under controlled conditions, this isn’t quite the same as measuring them ‘in vivo’, when competing under pressure in tournament conditions. At the same time it’s not feasible to make these measurements during important competitions in risk of changing the outcome.

In the third film of his Engineering Sport series, Professor Steve Haake investigates how stop motion capture technologies, such as the XBOX Kinect, are increasingly being used to provide accurate and instantaneous results.

Watch the full video with related content here:

What do I tell my athlete?

Coaches training today’s top athletes have access to a plethora of technology and scientific data. In the case of diving, this technology includes access to instant video playback and diving board force data, all of which is available at the tap of a finger via a poolside iPad.

But how useful is this data to coaches? Can it be used effectively to boost athletic performance and how has this technology changed the traditional role of the coach?

In the second film of his Engineering Sport series,  Professor Steve Haake travels to Ponds Forge diving centre in Sheffield to look at how technological advancements have changed training practices in diving.

Professional diving coach Adam Sotheran is on hand to help us understand where training and technology fit in between the raw data and the athlete.

Watch the full video with related content here:

A brief history of sport

For thousands of years the development of sport has been inextricably linked with our understanding of science. In the first film of the Engineering Sportseries, Professor Steve Haake investigates how technological and scientific advancements have played a key role in the evolution of sport.

Historical landmarks such as the industrial revolution not only drove technological changes but also social change – both of which contributed to the popularisation of sports. The invention of the humble lawn mower, the vulcanisation of rubber and the era of mass transport were key elements paving the way to today’s multi-billion pound sporting industry.

Sport science is now a field in its own right, with individuals such as Steve using scientific understanding to directly aid the performance of athletes. With new technologies how can we continue to strike a balance between progress and tradition?

Watch the full video with related content here:

(Accompanying text from all videos has been taken from the Royal Institution website)

Professor Steve Haake

About wiredchop

Simon Choppin Simon’s sports engineering career began at the age of six when he loosened the wheels of his skateboard in order to make it go faster. While the experiment was chalked up as his first failure, his resulting dimpled skull has provided an aerodynamic advantage in more recent sporting pursuits. Academically, Simon completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering with Mathematics at Nottingham University before joining the Sports Engineering Research Group at Sheffield to start his PhD. His main interests include work with high speed video, mathematical modelling of various sorts and experimental work involving machines with big buttons. As a sportsman, Simon has an unfortunate lack of talent for anything requiring skill, tactical awareness or the ability to learn from mistakes. He does however seem to posess the ability to move his legs around for a long time until other people get tired, for this reason you’re most likely to see him on a bike of some sort or running up a hill in offensively small shorts. Simon was fortunate enough to have a stint at the Guardian newspaper as part of the BSA’s media fellowship, which gave him the idea for this blog. Other than this, his writing experience includes his PhD thesis and various postcards to his Mum.