Friday, 27 July 2012 11:54
Though people used to rarely associate science with sports, increased engineering research and investment in technology by professional sporting organizations have merged the two industries, especially in the 2012 London Olympics.
Scientists and engineers played a significant role in shaping the Great Britain Olympic team, according to BBC News. Though the partnership between sports and science has been a relatively new development, the impact of it can be seen across a number of different events.
Mobile technology, smartphones and tablet computers are found in droves at the London Olympics, as coaches, players and country officials can be seen using these devices to gauge and improve their performance.
According to the news outlet, the ease with which these devices can be integrated into sports has been surprising, but the results are hard to ignore.
"Now we can get down to the track, and down to the poolside, and measure an athlete in situ, and give instant feedback to a coach. That way the athlete can go back straight away, and do it again - only better," professor Steve Haake from Sheffield Hallam University, told BBC News.
Team Great Britain athletes have unprecedented access to some of the leading technology companies in the United Kingdom, but this is not the first time a sporting organization has looked to science for the answer.
According to BBC News, engineering research is especially valuable for Formula 1 car drivers, as they can use live measurements to increase performance. The use of technology by the Great Britain Olympic team is based off this model, as the U.K. Sport head of research and innovation has worked with both organizations.
Dr. Scott Drawer noted that the technology used for live measurement of performance has helped coaches "better understand individuals and to better intervene so that they can develop much more effectively."
Coaching now involves the use of data mining and weak spots in training or performance are easily seen by team officials, who are working closely with scientists and researchers.
The swimmers for Team GB are especially involved, as these athletes are heavily reliant on the information provided to them by the researchers. Engineering research helps them to cut their time during events, with coaches changing the strategy for each race based on the splits and time spent underwater or pushing off the pool after a lap.
The use of technology is not specific to athletes, however, as Olympic officials have relied on science to change the way events are scored and monitored.
Laser pistols and sport
Traditional air pistols have been replaced by a new type of gun, with the assistance of engineering research from British defense contractors, according to The Engineer.
Laser technology was introduced into the sport of pentathlon, as participants in the event will now rely upon these new pistols. The key difference between the new and old guns is found in the way that performance will be scored.
Unlike older pistols, the new laser-based guns allow for electronic scoring, as officials will no longer have to look at physical marks on the target. While the switch to the new devices is not perfect - any malfunctioning is difficult to spot - it provides judges with a much easier job.
According to The Engineer, the complexity of the new technology also provides new challenges for researchers, and adjustments are made constantly.
"High-speed electronics are needed to perform the analysis and provide the athlete with the result. The ULTeMo system offers a high degree of usability and portability, and provides instantaneous results," Kelvin Davies, project leader for BAE Systems in the U.K. sport partnership, told the news outlet about new changes to the system.
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