Hitting for power is one of the most important metrics in softball. With this in mind, Team Hardball designed the Softball Dynamometer to be a training aid for batting. Current devices force an athlete to choose if they would like a numerical readout of the force of their swing, or a solid contact point that offers resistance to their swing motion. The Softball Dynamometer is designed to combine both options into one. The Softball Dynamometer is able to measure the force ( an integral of power) generated by a swing, while providing a solid striking target; this device best simulates a realistic situation, while providing numerical data for the user.
The Softball Dynamometer functions to provide the user with an instantaneous numerical output of the force generated by their swing. The user would be able to execute a full swinging motion with any bat, striking the device in the process, then receive a number corresponding to the force of that swing. With this data the user would then be able to utilize the feedback to optimize their force output by making improvements to the mechanics of their swing, and locate the optimal position at where their swing generates the most force. By displaying results immediately after each swing, an efficient training process can be developed.
The Softball Dynamometer is initiated by contact on the interchangeable target. The target will be an official softball or baseball, this will help provide the most realistic simulation. The quick release targets are designed to removed with ease, yet remain mounted to the device when struck with a bat. The ball will be affixed to a steel plate, which can be directly attached to the measuring assembly. When the target is struck, the plate will compress into the measuring device, which will start the recording process.
The measuring device for the Softball Dynamometer is a load cell. A load cell is an electronic component consisting of strain gauges configured in a Wheatstone bridge pattern, it converts a strain reading into an electrical output. The load cell is sensitive enough to register minute forces, yet sturdy enough to withstand constant contact with the steel plate. Activation of the load cell will transfer the force endured by the mechanical system into an electronic impulse displayed as a numerical output of force. A display indicator unit will interpret such a signal from the load cell, and instantly project the numerical equivalent of the generated force. With multiple settings, the indicator can display the force in multiple units ( ounces, pounds, grams, and kilograms ), as well as hold the peak force generated.
The Softball Dynamometer is designed to be able to attach to any diameter cylindrical support. Ideally, the Softball Dynamometer will affix to a fence pole, similar to those found in sporting complexes, however it can also attach to a light pole, flag pole, tree, and/or any other anchor cylindrical structure. The Softball Dynamometer attaches to the support by way of a three part manufactured hinge. These hinges are complemented with adjustable nylon webbing straps that allow the device to be adjustable and easily installed.
Origins of Team Hardball
Team Hardball originated from a senior mechanical engineering capstone project at the University of Nevada, Reno. A collection of engineering students, in conjecture with faculty sponsor, Dr. Mark Pingle, took notice to the fact that current softball training devices relied on primitive technology. Dr. Pingle’s high school daughter was reduced to a rolled up carpet set in front of a tree to help develop the power in her swing. After extensive research, and multiple debunked devices, the group of engineers was able to incorporate modern technological advances into a design that would revolutionize the softball training device market. Once the method for obtaining instantaneous power statistics had been perfected, the group recognized they had cultivated a valuable procedure, and needed to capitalize on their success, thus Team Hardball was born.
One of Team Hardball’s original ideas involved trying to harness the swing force by creating an air compression system. This design would attempt to measure the force, by a pressure gauge which would register the displaced air in the chamber. This method of measuring proved to be incredibly cumbersome in manufacturing and erroneous in measurement accuracy due to the ineffectiveness to create an airtight chamber. Excessive weight and cost, in addition to the inability to handle repeated trauma further discredited this design. Ultimately, this design did not pass the initial testing, yet it provided pivotal data and design lessons which helped cultivate the evolution of the current Softball Dynamometer design.
Instantaneous Power Feedback
Immediate force results from each individual swing provide the user the feedback to judge if the adjustments to their swing mechanics are beneficial. The force feedback is displayed in the indicator which is attached to the device. The display indicator provides the force reading in multiple units ( lbs, ounces, grams, and kilograms). With multiple display functions the indicator can be set to only show the peak force or the force of each individual swing. This feature also provides the user with statistics enabling them to track their progress over time.
This device can adapt to any required situation. The quick release straps allow the device to be placed at the desired height, on any desired cylindrical base. The Softball Dynamometer is also compatible to both right and left handed swings. This design also incorporates an interchangeable striking target, allowing this batting aid to be used by both baseball and softball players.
The removable pin construction on the mounting bars, allows the device to broken down into two parts. With one easy step the Softball Dynamometer can be broken down into a smaller linear configuration. This allows the device to be easily stored in any regulation baseball/softball bag.
When broken down the dimensions of the device are similar to any regulation bat, meaning that wherever you can store a bat the Softball Dynamometer can easily fit as well.
This design is built to help users, not harm them. As a result the spring design allows the device to rotate clear of the user’s swing, while returning to its initial starting position. Furthermore, the striking target weight will be kept under 5 lbs. This will not only represent the force of a pitched ball, but by limiting weight, it will also limit excess stress to user’s hands, wrists, shoulders and back which could lead to possible injury after prolonged use.
While accuracy is important, the foremost goal of the Softball Dynamometer will be to give consistent readings. Since the device will provide baseline measurements, consistency in force read outs is paramount. Factors of safety have been built into all components as a result to prevent equipment failure and maintain integrity of the device and force readouts.
MEET TEAM HARDBALL
Tom Bouthillier is a senior mechanical engineer at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has participated in organized sports for over 15 years. He has been a part of numerous teams in various sports ranging from the youth, high school, and collegiate level. He currently coaches the JV football team at Bishop Manogue Catholic High School. His unique perspective from his sporting knowledge coupled with his coaching experience brings a different point of view to Team Hardball.
Additionally, he brings over 10 years of precision sheet metal manufacturing experience. His ties with TnB Enterprises Inc., in Sparks, Nevada have provided Team Hardball with the guidance and resources necessary to design the Softball Dynamometer.
Richard Millare is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Business Administration. He has always been interested in the science and physics of sports, especially in softball and baseball. The Softball Dynamometer has given him the opportunity to explore the mechanics of a swing and how to improve it.
Quinn Croasdell is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He is expecting to graduate in December 2013. His experience as a high school and collegiate athlete coupled with three years of HVAC engineering work experience bring a unique mix of value to the creative process of Team Hardball.
Benjamin Becerra was born in Sonoma, California in 1982 but moved to Reno, Nevada in 1986. In 1988, he joined the Sparks Bambino Babe Ruth Baseball League where he played the outfield until 1994. In 2001, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear power plant technician and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman through deployments to Iraq and relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. After being discharged in 2006 he enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno where he is working towards bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics with minors in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics.
Dr. Mark Pingle
Dr. Pingle is a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno. His teaching and research interests are primarily in macroeconomics and behavioral economics.
The need for a Softball Dynamometer arose from the training of Dr. Pingle’s daughter. Dr. Pingle was helping his high school softball playing daughter becvome a better power hitter. Originally, Dr. Pingle was reduced to using a tree covered with a rug as a training aid to show his daughter were to extend her arms to gain the most power out of her swing. Dr. Pingle wanted a better solution for this training aid so the user could instantly gain feedback on the force generated by their swing and to be able to adjust their swing mechanics accordingly.
Due to friction in the design of the device, testing focused primarily on consistency of readouts and on linear feedback. Namely, the device was to be a baseline for improvement, and while not accurate, at least consistent in order to validate user improvement. Testing consisted of 5 foot pendulum weighted from 50-200 pounds in increments of 10 lbs., being allowed to strike the device from varying angle degrees(30-60-90o). Each weight and angle combination was conducted twice to ensure consistency. The resulting second tests were all within 5% of original measurements which was within desired specifications.