I wonder if sports breaks even at Rutgers - most programs don't. One also wonders how much an athletic director is worth. I'm guessing that you could probably cut it to $300k a year and still have a large number of qualified applicants.
In recent years quite a lot of work has been done improving materials used in building bicycles (although some of us maintain the benefits are not universal) and aerodynamics for racing bikes. It may come as a surprise that a deep understand of something as simple as "why are bikes stable?" is still investigated and quite a bit of work as been done in the past decade. Now a European bike maker is funding new research in bike stability that may ultimately lead to even more customized frames.
About ten years ago an updated form of soapbox racing existed for desginers and engineers at car companies to show what they could do - all for charity. Mark notes Volvo's 2004 entry. They came back the next year with a more conventional aerodynamic design.
Volvo Extreme Gravity Car
(from Volvo Press Release) Don't let the curvaceous body fool you, the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car is all about speed – in a straight line. It's also designed to be "human centric" as Doug Frasher, Senior Strategic Designer at Volvo Cars, describes the highly stylized soap-box-derby racecar. "In most derby cars, the human form is hidden from view behind smooth panels and Plexiglas. I've designed the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car to show off the human form, to accentuate the body's natural aerodynamic lines."
Built for charity, the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car will compete head to head against five other gravity car designs from Mazda, Porsche, Bentley, General Motors and Nissan on August 21st at the 2004 Extreme Gravity Competition in Irvine, California at the Ford Motor Comapany's Premier Automotive Group headquarters. This year marks the fourth time the race has run, but it's a first for Volvo.
The race, founded by Don MacAllister of America Works for Kids, is a charitable event that raises money for foster children to help them become independent, working young men and women in the community. Additionally, through Gravity Series, Inc., foster children will gain valuable, paid work experience as they become involved in all aspects of the event.
Volvo's Extreme Gravity Car breaks almost all the rules of a typical soap-box-derby racecar. Take the rider's forward facing "rumps-up" positioning for example. Traditional derby cars lay the rider back in a recumbent position with their feet leading the way. Volvo's Extreme Gravity Car mounts the rider in the prone position, allowing for a very small frontal area and aiding in the car's aerodynamic shape. The fiberglass faring rests on the rider's shoulders, giving the car its taught, skin-tight appearance. The car and driver are almost one with each other. With the right body proportions, the human being and the mechanical vehicle mate perfectly.
"Obviously, this car is made for a fairly limber and tall driver," continues Frasher, "because you have to literally get down on your hands and knees and crawl into it." Inside, the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car continues to break all the rules. Steering the vehicle is accomplished via small aluminum handlebars hidden beneath the faring. The car is braked via a bicycle style handbrake that slows the rear wheel.
To reduce weight, the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car's frame is constructed of high-strength, water-jet-cut aluminum, while the aerodynamic fairings are comprised of fiber carbon. Weighing in at a spry 35 pounds (without ballast), the car is just one inch shy of 8 feet in length, 22 inches wide and 20 inches high. "Rolling resistance is a gravity car's worst enemy," says Frasher. "To reduce resistance I've located the two main wheels in-line with each other. The smaller outboard wheels simply provide additional stability." Frasher estimates that the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car could hit nearly 35 miles per hour by the time it reaches the end of the 64-foot long ramp. The rider will definitely feel the speed, too. With just an inch or so between the rider's nose and the car's front wheel, the experience will "be fairly hairy," comments Frasher with a wry smile.
Volvo Takes Design Award
After weeks of design work, engineering and testing the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car finally got the chance to go head-to-head against competition from five other major design studios. The results: Grand Prize for design, 3rd place overall, a strong showing considering it was Volvo's first attempt at the fourth annual charity race to benefit foster children.
"I'm very pleased with how the car performed," commented Volvo Strategic Design Chief Doug Frasher, creator of the Volvo Extreme Gravity Car. "Our design was unconventional, to say the least, so we knew we were breaking a lot of the conventional wisdom of soap-box-derby racing."
Grudge-match-style qualifying races allowed the Volvo to outrun the entries from Nissan, Bentley and Mazda. "We noticed that our car was always first to the bottom of the ramp, and were excited by this hint that our design has some great potential," said Frasher.
The transition point between the ramp and street, however, subjected the car to repeated impacts. In a move to ensure safety, team Volvo removed all 45 pounds of ballast from the vehicle's rear section to minimize the risk of breaking something critical at the bottom of the ramp. Even so, there were increasing signs of stress on the car after each race and action in the Volvo pits was intense.
In the end, the entry from General Motors took the checkered flag with the Volvo taking home the "Best Design" award. "We were thrilled to be the recipient of the Best Design award since it was judged by our fellow competitors," noted Frasher. "Overall, we loved the event. It was a fun day of racing and the seeing the expressions on the faces on the kids during their races made the whole effort worthwhile."
The Extreme Gravity Competition, founded by Don MacAllister of America Works for Kids, is a charitable event that raises money for foster children to help them become independent, working young men and women in the community. Additionally, through Gravity Series, Inc., foster children will gain valuable, paid work experience as they become involved in all aspects of the event.
"We are developing the most exciting extreme gravity racing series in the world and really appreciate the support of these professional car design teams,” said MacAllister. “A portion of proceeds from the sale of each team’s original design renderings, as well as racing merchandise will be donated to support inspirational training workshops for foster kids."
Volvo is already preparing for next year. "We have another car that's already in development," Frasher said. "And I think we'll see the checkered flag in 2005."
Although baseline tests of athletes prior to an injury are trending up, these tests must still be compared to examinations after an injury has occurred. They require heavy medical equipment, such as a CT scanner, MRIequipment or X-ray machine, and are not always conclusive. The Notre Dame team has developed a tablet-based testing system that captures the voice of an individual and analyzes the speech for signs of a potential concussion anytime, anywhere, in real time.
“This project is a great example of how mobile computing and sensing technologies can transform health care,” Poellabauer said. “More important, because almost 90 percent of concussions go unrecognized, this technology offers tremendous potential to reduce the impact of concussive and subconcussive hits to the head.”
The system sounds simple enough: An individual speaks into a tablet equipped with the Notre Dame program before and after an event. The two samples are then compared for TBI indicators, which include distorted vowels, hyper nasality and imprecise consonants.
Eduardo Velloso at Lancaster University, UK, built a system that uses the depth-sensing camera from a Microsoft Kinect gaming sensor to capture a weightlifter's motion in three dimensions. The set-up monitors form during lifting movements and provides real-time feedback on an LCD panel. Green or red signals let the lifter know if their back, feet and elbows are in the right position, and show the range of motion and speed of each lift.
In tests, novice weightlifters made 23 per cent fewer mistakes during lateral dumbbell raises, and nearly 80 per cent fewer mistakes during biceps curls than they did when unaided. Velloso presented the results earlier this month at the Augmented Human conference in Stuttgart, Germany.
While the prototype system needed to be preprogrammed to track the components of each movement, Velloso has since expanded its capabilities to monitor and provide feedback on any physical activity, without the need for explicit instructions or programming.
"We created another system that observes users performing movements with a Kinect camera and extracts a model of the movement automatically," he says. The idea is that the system will ultimately be able to watch an expert perform an athletic motion, break it down into components, and compare those with the way a beginner performs the same movement. It can then provide instant feedback to correct any flaws.
For those who exercise at a much more intense level in the form of high level sport there appear to be additional cognitive benefits. Again from Science News
The study, of 87 top-ranked Brazilian volleyball players (some of them medalists in the Beijing and London Olympics) and 67 of their nonathletic contemporaries, also found that being an athlete minimizes the performance differences that normally occur between women and men. Female athletes, the researchers found, were more like their male peers in the speed of their mental calculations and reaction times, while nonathletic females performed the same tasks more slowly than their male counterparts.
Overall, the athletes were faster at memory tests and tasks that required them to switch between tasks. They were quicker to notice things in their peripheral vision and to detect subtle changes in a scene. And in general, they were better able to accomplish tasks while ignoring confusing or irrelevant information.
Perhaps the most interesting discovery was that female athletes had significant cognitive advantages over their nonathletic counterparts, Kramer said, advantages that minimized the subtle speed differences between them and the men. The female athletes were faster than their nonathletic peers at detecting changes in a scene and could more quickly pick out relevant details from a distracting background. Their performance on these and the other tasks was on par with the male athletes, whereas nonathletic males consistently outperformed their female peers.
From the Journal Frontiers in Movement Science and Sport - the full article is not paywalled (pdf)
Perceptual-cognitive expertise in elite volleyball players
1Lifelong Brain and Cognition Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
2Department of Psychology, Aging Mind and Brain Initiative, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
3Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahasse, FL, USA
4Exercise Neuroscience Laboratory (LaNEx/PPGEF), Universidade Gama Filho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
5Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedics, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The goal of the current study was to investigate the relationship between sport expertise and perceptual and cognitive skills, as measured by the component skills approach. We hypothesized that athletes would outperform non-athlete controls in a number of perceptual and cognitive domains and that sport expertise would minimize gender differences. A total of 154 individuals (87 professional volleyball players and 67 non-athlete controls) participated in the study. Participants performed a cognitive battery, which included tests of executive control, memory, and visuo-spatial attention. Athletes showed superior performance speed on three tasks (two executive control tasks and one visuo-spatial attentional processing task). In a subset of tasks, gender effects were observed mainly in the control group, supporting the notion that athletic experience can reduce traditional gender effects. The expertise effects obtained substantiate the view that laboratory tests of cognition may indeed enlighten the sport-cognition relationship.
Of course this looks at elite athletes. It would be interesting to see a longitudinal study that followed them during their development as well as non-elite athletes. Our friend Colleen was an elite indoor and beach volleyball player. In addition to an enormous amount of physical exercise (For the beach game she had to eat well North of 5,000 calories a day to maintain her weight when training and had very little body fat. This isn't exactly inexpensive in time or money and you can't get away with cheap junk food...), there was a lot of specialized training specific to the sport. It would be interesting to see if physical conditioning is enough to produce the difference noted in the paper and how much is training specific to a sport.
Here she is training for the specifics of the beach game