Currently, there is no way for coaches to accurately identify both where and with how much force a gymnast is hitting the springboard with during vault training. Without this technology, coaches can’t quickly identify errors in athletes jumps, such as if they are landing on their feet evenly or not. This means that it takes longer to find these errors and correct them to improve the gymnasts’ overall performance and leads to a less personalized training. In worst case scenario, it could lead to injury of the gymnast because the error is not corrected in a timely manner. Additionally, advances in research on both athletes and in gymnastics can’t happen without a technology that can identify small details of performances.
Hit Tech will be designing a force mat called Hit Pad that has the ability to read force magnitudes as well as show pressure mapping of the gymnast’s feet. It will be able to send all this data wirelessly to the coach’s phone or tablet for them to examine. Hit Pad will be designed to work with any springboard material and have a top layer that is non-skid to minimize slipping hazards.
Proof of Concept
Hit Pad will be entering the market for force reading and mapping mats. There are few competitors in this market, but the ones that do exist are large companies that have a long standing history of providing reliable products for a range of uses. The major downfalls for these companies are that their products come with a very high price tag and none of them have a product that is specifically designed for use in a gymnastics facility.
Hit Tech plans to offer a product that is significantly less expensive than their competitors and targets gymnastics facilities. The team has performed a market analysis and talked to local gymnastics coaches to better understand the need for this type of product. Since the only competitors that Hit Tech has are the ones in a much higher price market, there is no current buying or distribution patterns for the price market that Hit Tech is aiming for. For the higher price market, this type of technology is purchased for a large range of uses and made to order. Since Hit Pad is not general use, it will not be made to order but will be made to ship compactly to help cut costs.
For the Proof of Concept (PoC), Hit Tech decided to build a small model of the pressure sensing matrix that will be used in the full scale product. This matrix will be made out of a conductive material, called Velostat, and copper tape. The purpose of doing this small model as a PoC is to prove that using Velostat and copper to create a matrix will allow the team to measure a resistance change that can then be converted into a force when a load is applied to the mat. Although the team plans on applying a current and measuring voltage change in the mat, by proving that it can read resistance change means that they will be successful doing it either way.
The PoC will be a 4”x4” model that senses resistance change in .25 sq.in. sections. This can be used for real world application because the actual product will just be a scaled up version, made out of the same materials, and used in the same way. There are also many different ways to measure the effects the load has on the mat that can be converted to the force, meaning that if a current cannot be applied, simply reading resistance change will also suffice. The proof of concept and the engineering analysis prove that the chosen design can be applied to a variety of real world applications.
The product design specifications were outlined by the team at the start of the project and took into consideration all of the hazards identified for the product. Some of the most important design specifications that have controlled the project are: the pad must be soft and flexible, be covered with a non-skid material, be able to attach to the springboard securely, and be able to read and map forces exerted by the gymnast. These specifications control the design because many of them are for the safety of the gymnast.
Hit Pad was designed to meet all of the design specifications, with special consideration of the safety requirements, to ensure there is no chance of injury to the end user. The sensor matrix is made out of a conductive material called velostat and copper tape. This matrix is wired and coded to an arduino that will read changes in voltage throughout the mat when a force is applied. This voltage change is converted to force values and the maximum force will be displayed to the coach. The matrix will also map where the gymnast hits and display this to the coach. The sensors are covered by a non-skid material called TAC/10 that is commonly used on springboards. The power source for the sensors is a D battery. All of the hardware will be stored in a padded box is off the board. Finally, the pad attaches to the springboard using straps in both directions that can be easily tightened to properly fit the board.
Purpose of the Project:
The purpose of designing this product is because there is currently no affordable way for coaches to accurately identify where and with how much force a gymnast is hitting the springboard with during vault training. Without this technology, coaches can’t quickly identify errors in the athletes jumps, such as if they are landing on their feet equally or not. This means that it takes longer to find these errors and correct them to improve the gymnast’s overall performance and gives a less personalized training. In the worst case scenario, it could lead to injury of the gymnast because the error was not corrected in a timely manner. Additionally, advances in research on both athletes and in gymnastics cannot happen without a technology that can identify the small details of performances. Having this technology will allow for better training of gymnasts, leading to better performances and help coaches train each gymnast on a more personal, detailed level.
Bottom View (Sensor Side):
The fabrication of the Hit Pad by Hit Tech was done using the Delamare Library makerspace and tools provided there. Hit Tech practiced all safety procedures when using tools needed for fabrication.
All of the materials used for fabrication of the mat were ordered from different vendors online. The materials used for making the sensor matrix are shown in Fig. 1. The team started by cutting sheets of velostat that were measured to be 11” x 16”. While this was done, copper tape were cut into short and long strips. Sixteen 12” strips were cut, along with eleven 17” strips. The strips were then laid onto the velostat sheets, measured 1” from center to center. The process is shown in Fig. 2 and Fig. 3. The laminate sheet was punchered in 1” increments on the edge where the copper strips lay so that the copper was exposed for soldering. The velostat sheets were then layed and placed in the laminating sheet and set through the laminator 3 times, flipping the mat upside down each time. Ribbon wire was cut as shown in Fig. 4 so that it could be soldered to the copper strips while lying adjacent to the mat. The wires were soldered onto the copper, shown in Fig. 5, and the other ends were placed into the arduino. The side with sixteen wires were connected to the analog inputs and the side with eleven wires were connected to the digital inputs. The code was then ran and testing was performed.
There is no advanced skill or knowledge needed for the fabrication of Hit Pad.
Figure 1: All materials used in the fabrication of Hit Pad.
Figure 2: The 12” copper strips being placed.
Figure 3: The 17” copper strips being placed.
Figure 4: Ribbon wire cut to be soldered.
Figure 5: Wires soldered to copper strips.
Testing and Results
Meet the Team
Taylor Larson is a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Born and raised in Reno, Taylor grew up with a love for roller coasters and has dreamed of designing them since she first rode one, leading her to this degree path. Taylor has always performed well in school, making the dean’s list every semester and always putting forth her best effort in everything she does. Although she has worked on many projects while in college that all came with their challenges, designing an athletic force sensor pad has already proven to be the most challenging one. Taylor has developed important engineering skills such as communication, how to work on a team, and key problem solving skills. As an engineering design intern at Jensen Precast, she has been able to apply her problem solving skills to design solutions for different custom jobs that have not been seen or dealt with before. Outside of school, Taylor enjoys to travel and is proud that she has made it possible for herself to visit so many different places, by such a young age; she hopes to travel even more before she graduates in May. After graduation, Taylor plans to get her PE in Civil Engineering and hopes to continue working in a design position and one day design roller coasters or work as an engineer for the National Park Service.
Seth Evanhoe is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno from Redding, CA. Throughout his engineering education, his teamwork and problem solving skills have greatly increased. He has participated in many engineering projects including the difficult hovercraft project. During the project, he utilized problem solving skills to design directed airflow to propel the hovercraft using the same air flow that provides the necessary lift. Outside of school, Seth is most proud of recently completing an engine swap in his 1991 Toyota Pickup. Following graduation, Seth plans to pursue a career in investment casting.
Griffin Pierce is a senior studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Originally from Oakland, CA, he moved to Reno for college. At the university, Griffin worked on class projects including a hovercraft and NXT robotic vehicles. Outside of school, Griffin is the vice president of the Baja SAE club on campus. Griffin took on the role of leading the design of the gear reduction drivetrain system for the 2018-2019 season. The design required force analysis of materials as well as dynamics and mechanical design. Griffin used what he had learned in school and other research to lead the design of this small gearbox from scratch. The design process of this project has been the most challenging engineering project faced so far. Now in his third year in Baja SAE, being able to drive a vehicle that he helped design and build gives him great pride. Pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering and participation in Baja SAE has allowed Griffin’s problem solving skills to greatly improve, as well as a far better understanding of the design process. His goal is to graduate from school and find a job in the automotive industry, where he hopes to use his engineering knowledge to design and create aftermarket performance parts such as supercharger or turbocharger upgrade kits, or maybe even to help design scratch built race cars and trucks.
Massimo Daltoso is in his fifth year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada, Reno. Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, he grew up playing football and basketball and traveling the world. At the age of two his family moved to Chile for two years where he learned to speak Spanish. For his third year of college, he studied abroad at an engineering school called University of Navarra, TECNUN in San Sebastian, Spain. Throughout his time there as a full time student, Massimo filled his schedule with engineering classes taught in Spanish. At the University of Nevada, Reno he worked on projects with his engineering teams such as an Autonomous Hovercraft, NXT vehicles, and Static Bridge. For each project he works on, he takes the opportunity to improve his problem solving skills as well as working through the design process. Massimo worked as an intern at Micron Technologies where he continued to learn about the design process. The company tasked him with creating new parts for the machines working on the manufacturing floor. Massimo is looking to graduate this upcoming semester. He wants to go into the engineering field to design, build, or help on any project that comes his way. Ideally he wants to find a small engineering firm in Spain and continue working all around the world.
Lelton Neveu Gibson
Lelton Neveu Gibson is a mechanical engineering student in his last year of undergraduate at the University of Nevada Reno. Lelton grew up in Oakland CA, and first found his love for engineering watching a TV show called battle bots. In high school he was a part of the computer academy and participated in the First Robotics competitions at the University of California Berkeley. While at UNR, Lelton has worked with a few multidisciplinary teams to create things such as a hovercraft using an NXT, a bridge made of Balsa wood, and a fun engineering project for elementary school students to learn about the magnificent world of science and to hopefully spark enough curiosity in them for them to pursue knowledge in the field. Lelton is also engaged with clubs and organizations such as ASME and ASCE in order to continue to learn more about what’s going on in the field after college. During summer breaks in college, Lelton has worked for various jobs, one of which was a local corporation called Hamilton Company which specializes in creating automated liquid handling, syringes, and HPLC where he was part of the manufacturing team. With the skills and knowledge he acquired, Lelton would like to eventually get a PE and work in the entertainment industry creating attractions that will give joy to those around them.