TU Delft Sports Engineering Institute | Hundreds of Sports scientists together at the TU Delft
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Hundreds of Sports scientists together at the TU Delft

13 Jul Hundreds of Sports scientists together at the TU Delft

The engineering of Sport 11 – 2016 ISEA Conference

We’re smack in the middle of a very busy sports summer, with –amongst others– the European Championships Football and Athletics, the Olympic Games and the Tour de France. From Monday the 11th until Thursday the 14th of July, over 200 scientist and students from the field of Sports Engineering came together in Delft from over the whole world for the 11th conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA).

Tuesday July 12th, a short impression
After the 2016 ISEA Conference opening by Conference Chair Frans van der Helm, Harry van Dorenmalen, Chair of Top Team Sport, stressed “The Dutch sports knowledge and innovation agenda opts for success in a selected area, where we can make the difference on the global playing field. Being a small country, acceleration is possible by focussing on heavily and seriously cooperating with all present at ISEA. We learn to invest in what is relevant and dare to say what is crap and leave it be. Collecting and analysing data, sharing the data and using it to predict what is needed for future success.”

Louis Vertegaal, Director of Chemical and Exact Sciences at NWO – the Netherlands organisation for scientific research, advanced the importance of the Olympic Cycle for continuous research and better performances, for better social and economic values and innovation. Many sport innovation projects for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 have been initiated and facilitated to visit each others’ universities and governments.

We are together with 230 participants from 23 nations; let us share our knowledge ‘by using multiple ways of communication direct like the Dutch, modest as the Japanese, to the point as the Germans and with our hearts as Italians do.’ – Programme Chair, Arjen Jansen –

Prof. Dr. Robert Reiner talked us through the Cybathlon: an event to promote the development of usercentered assistive devices. In the USA, 100.000 amputations take place per year. For medical institutions, governments and the amputees themselves, research on improving the quality of life for the amputees is relevant. Many non-powered devices have been developed due to extensive research. The next step is to look into the possibility to make powered devices, which has been impossible so far, as we can still not translated the intention of the user to the actuator in a satisfying way.

Robert Reiner initiated Cybathlon, an event where academia and sports industry can participate to show a larger public how robotic assistive devices can improve the quality of life for the disabled. Contestants are judged on the number of completed tests and their respective difficulties, , with the time to compete as a secondary measurement, in case of a tie. The Cybathlon will be a yearly event; next in line are London (2017), Delft (2018), Seoul (2019), Tokyo (2020).

Wednesday July 13th, a short impression
In 1989, Professor Sadayuki Ujihashi (JAP) organized a kick off meeting in sports engineering in Tokyo. This morning he took us on his voyage from that very first meeting in 1989 to his Tokyo 2020 utopia, ‘a conference where all sport engineering associations will meet’. In the nineties, research on sports engineering was carried out in different places around the world, but one hardly knew who was doing what. Professor Ujihashi created and chaired JSEA – the Japanese Sports Engineering Association. In 1997, he encountered Steve Haake (GBR), who organised the first ISEA meeting in Sheffield (GBR) in 1996. Both had a similar drive, creating platforms for sharing knowledge in the field of sports engineering. They have been emphasising that innovation cycles speed up when bringing scientists together for sharing knowledge. How did he get involved in sports engineering? Professor Ujihashi “I was stimulated by a super distance runner, Abebe Bikila and started distance running myself. When I enrolled at the Tokyo Institute of Technology I started research on running shoes, because shoes are very important for distance runners. Professor Ujishashi is eager to see the Olympics in his own city for the second time. He looks forward to meeting all the engineering scientists in Tokyo in 2020, gathering and sharing knowledge in one joint sports engineering conference of ISEA, APCST, JSEA and IMechE.

Monday, many scientists paid a visit to the bicycle dynamics lab of Dr. Arend L. Schwab at the Delft University of Technology. Today, Dr. Schwab talks us through his work on the art of and science of cycling. Amongst his fields of interest are multi body dynamics, finite element methods, legged locomotion and robotics. He works in multi body dynamics, bicycle dynamics and control, and other sports engineering themes, like speed skating, cross country skiing and cycling.

Scientists have long been pouring over the complicated questions of bicycles and their safety. As far back as the 19th century, bicycles have been a field of research for scientists. The questions in the field all seemed answered, until Dr. Schwab ‘reopened the case’ and revisited earlier models. He found small mistakes and missing assumptions in the work of his predecessors and decided to continue with their research. Dr. Schwab encourages the use of simple models and field experiments to understand the performance of a bike and the influence of the human body on their performance. To understand why a bicycle is self-stable above a certain speed, a movie of a field experiment it shows us that ‘when running next to a bike and letting it go, you see that the bike will steer itself back on the right track’. It was believed that the gyroscopic effect of the wheels is essential for a bicycle’s stability, as is a certain amount of trailing. “We have known for many years that the generally accepted explanation for stability was too simple. The experiment showed that both gyroscopic effects and trailing are not the key to a bicycle remaining above a certain speed.

And now for the practical use of the research. Recent research on descending techniques showed that braking behaviour of a cyclist makes the difference between a gold medal and no medal at all. Reason enough to research that particular area of cycling. A descent in La Plagne (FRA) was the playing field for the scientists. From the many points of data to be collected, one result was amazingly simple to register; some cyclists braked early and gently, some cyclists braked late and hard. The latter won. The result is that not the bicycle needed improvements but the human mind had to be trained.

Loads of bicycle mysteries await a solution. For research projects, results and inspiration on the subject, visit Dr. Schwabs’s bicycle lab and check www.bicycle.tudelft.nl.

Thursday, July 14th, a short impression

“What can data science bring to sport?”
Geurt Jongbloed, professor at the TU Delft Institute of Applied Mathematics and Institute of Sport Engineering

As Geurt puts it so nicely “We data scientists, or statisticians in my case, like to fumble around in everyone’s backyard. We get to know your field of research, try to understand the concepts and then help with the data.” The domain of sports offers a lot of challenges that are interesting for statisticians. This week, presentations on tracking, measuring, sensors, statistical analysis, and many more proved the relevance of both fields to one another. A good data related example in sports is tracking athletes, balls or other objects. One sees or tracks the object, sometimes using sensors and sometimes using video, after which data analysis can begin. Before, however, a sports engineer has to work hard on getting the optimal setting for the experiment. At the end of the day, you start your experiment and you collect a lot of data. Are you, for example, measuring the entire race of a speed skater, or can you invert tactics to take only a few measurements? You try to get data, visualise it and draw a valid conclusion. “As you might already have experienced, one answer oftentimes leads to at least three other questions, welcome in the world of data science. I love it!”

Data science touches on a lot of other fields as wel, ranging from law (Which data can and do we share, and how?) to storage (What do we store? How do we store it, and in which format?), interaction (How do people interact with data?) and visualisation (How do we present the data in a clear and clean way?).

In essence, most often we want to know if a certain change is an improvement or not. We can test this with the two sample test model – a great test for general purposes. Benchmarking is another challenge for data scientists, as is combining data to answer questions and improve the information flows. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, the coach boats, which supports sailors, wanted to know the true wind speed and direction in the bay. Since they cross the bay several times a day by boat, and the boat already collected many different data samples, the answer lied in correctly combining these. Data, often interrelated, needed to be combined and rid of noise. In the end; Geurt’s team ended up with weather data for the bay, both over time and position.

Finally, what can we do for sports engineers? Geurt explained he did not like that question. “It’s not what we can do for you, or you can do for us. It’s what we can do for each other. We can sit down together and think about the problem – see what data you have and what you need. Communicate and collaborate with data scientists, we like to work in the world of sports too. We like your backyard, it even has a swimming pool.”

Awards ceremony
Frans van der Helm and the various chairmen of the juries proudly presented the prizes, together with the representatives of the award sponsors.

3dMD Best Poster Award
 (41 posters)
Winners: Karen van Stein Callenfels, Martijn van der Ent and Monique Berger
Topic: Seat optimization for single handed paralympic sailing boat.

Adidas Best Student Paper Award (36 papers)

Winner: Heike Brock, Yuji Ohgi, Kazuya Sei
Topic:   Development of an automated motion evaluation system from wearable sensor devices for ski jumping

Asics Best Paper Award (161 papers)
Winners: Jean-Marc Drouet, Catherine Guastavino and Nicolas Girard
Topic: Perceptual thresholds for shock-type excitation of the front wheels of the road bicycle at the cyclist’s hands.

Arjen Jansen handed the horn used to the start of each session to David V. Thiel, chair of the next ISEA in 2018. The official website for the 2018 conference was then launched after a short introduction to Brisbane. Smart planning, the conference takes place just before the Common Wealth Games, reasons enough to go to Brisbane in 2018.

Frans van der Helm closed the conference and resumed enjoying the happy faces all around, the hard work and the valuable contribution of all participants to sports engineering. “You did all the work, sent in your papers, reviewed them, registered, came over and visited all presentations. It was a great pleasure to host the ISEA2016 and I am grateful you all came over to see what we are doing here in Delft on sports engineering”

For the agenda
September 2017       8th APCST, Melbourne Australia at Swinburn University of Technology

26-28 March 2018   ISEA 2018 ‘ Engineering of Sport’, Brisbane Queensland Australia,              www.isea2018.com.au

By Ute Vrijburg-Klaassens for TU Delft Sports Engineering Institute ed.

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