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So what is Sports Engineering?

Join Techno Mum as she looks at the ideas and engineering behind the gadgets!

So what do engineers in sport actually do?  

There’s many different aspects to sports engineering and technology.  Generally, engineers will focus on the basics – what athletes are wearing, what their equipment they are using, the space they’re doing it in and ways to measure what they’re doing.  The main aims are to get better results whilst keeping athletes safe.  However engineering extends to all sorts of areas that are important to sport, and sporting events – even into outer space!

Why not have a think about whether you might like a job using engineering for sport?

COMPUTING

If you love computers, you could develop apps to monitor athletes or footballers or anyone who likes to play sport.   You could find new ways to collect data from wearable devices and write programmes to analyse the data and provide even more useful information to the players as well as their coaches and managers.

NUMBER CRUNCHERS

Analysing data is a huge part of sports technology – whether it’s someone’s performance or how well a piece of equipment works.  There’s plenty of work for those people who love crunching numbers. 

GETTING CREATIVE

If you invent or make things, what about improving the design of equipment like cycle helmets, golf clubs, or shuttlecocks?  You could identify problems with current designs, doing research on what would help to overcome those, and then coming up with brand new prototypes to test.  Testing’s almost an industry in itself – using wind tunnels, computer modelling as well as real players to find out how things behave in fast moving environments.

MATERIAL MATTERS

And then there’s the clothing the athletes wear.  Someone has to create new fabrics, and design clothing that enhances performance.

Fabric and material technology is right at the front of sports innovation – and coming up with new materials involves getting right down the microscope using optic fibre, carbon fibre and even nanotechnology.

THINK BIG!

If you like thinking big maybe you could design the venues for sporting events.  There’s such a variety to choose from – football stadiums, tennis courts, velodromes, athletic tracks.  And its not just bricks and mortar – technology can be used in a million different ways to improve the game for competitors and spectators – for example you could design a running track with LEDS that change the colour of the track the faster athlete’s run. It might help the athletes see who’s accelerating and be fun for the spectators.  Spectators are an important part of sport – and so is fun! 

PUTTING ON A SHOW

Sporting events should be exciting and enjoyable and creating an atmosphere can be made easier using music and lighting to get the crowds in the mood.  With big events like the Olympics there are frequently lavish Opening Ceremonies with many special effects – and so there will always be the need for people who can put on a good show especially when technology can be at the forefront.

For example in the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics a stunning light show was created using drones, setting a world record.

TAKE TO THE SKIES

Drones and robotics and increasingly used in all sorts of spheres including sports.  There’s fun to be had in using them to develop new camera technology – whether to help spectators see better or umpires to judge.

INTO ORBIT?

The possibilities are out of this world – quite literally! Engineers are already studying how space travel affects our bodies.  Weightlessness causes muscle weakness but with no gravity, it’s not very easy to run, lift weights or stretch out muscles without specialised equipment. And in low gravity if you tried to do a press up – you’d just keep going UP!

Fitness machines designed for astronauts are already being used on earth by athletes to improve their performance and to help recovery after injury.  And with space missions likely to get longer and longer, engineers will have to develop new ways for people to run, cycle and maybe even swim in space…Just think, perhaps one day we’ll see the SPACE OLYMPICS!

For more information visit The IET.

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