Spring 2018 – 497-222: The Science of Volleyball

Meeting Days/Time
Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 12:40 pm
Steve Hammond (ID) (shammon1@iit.edu) and Bo Rodda (ID) (rodda.bo@gmail.com)
In collaboration with the Illinois Tech Volleyball Program
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome
Technological Innovation

How might the talent of Illinois Tech undergraduates enable athletes to improve their learning/performance and grow the game? How could we make coaching/learning the game more scientifically based?  What are ways to make volleyball more accessible?  What technology (sensors, data analysis, video) could be used to enhance performance? These are examples of issues that might be addressed by student teams in this IPRO.

Volleyball is a rapidly growing sport in the USA with one of the largest athlete populations among female athletes. Globally, it is a major sport, second only to soccer in popularity.

Sports science is an ideal space for applying a wide variety of analytical and social skills.  Illinois Tech has recently added men’s volleyball to its NCAA Division III women’s program. By working with the Athletics Department, volleyball athletes, USA Volleyball and Chicago area club coaches, this IPRO team will explore aspects of volleyball technique, training and execution.

This continuing IPRO team has the option to build on prior work.  Projects of interest include:

  • Use of the sensor/tracking/feedback technology (video, RFID, accelerometers, etc.) to provide live feedback and post-match analytics to athletes in the training environment
  • Mechanical or electronic training aids to provide useful feedback to athletes and coaches
  • Equipment breakthroughs including sitting volleyball net systems, volleyball designs for rough court surfaces and others
  • Designing light weight, portable games to promote learning volleyball among young players

Students may opt to advance this work or develop new projects of their own.

The aim of the IPRO is to apply multiple disciplines to understand how to enhance volleyball team performance and/or grow the game.  Depending on the skills and interests of the students, this could involve measurement, statistical analysis, social and psychological understanding of athletes, nutrition and other potentially helpful topics of exploration.  The goal is to enhance understanding of how to play, train and compete in the sport.  An example from Illinois Tech’s Data Science Department is featured in this article.

The areas to be studied will be guided by input from students, athletes (both IIT and external to IIT), IIT coaches, locally-based USA Volleyball coaches and interested department staff. Students will be strongly encouraged to “get in the gym” at school and at the Adversity Volleyball Club, which supports the work done here.  We will also collaborate with USA Volleyball through video conference interviews and remote feedback.

IPRO team members will be organized in multiple teams of three-to-five students. The teams will explore opportunities to improve performance through:

  • Problem framing – what is the problem and how do you know?
  • Research – User, technical and economic/value research.  What is needed?  Can we do it?  Is it worth it?
  • Develop potential solutions
  • Design / build / test cycle – these cycles will ensure user’s needs are being met and that the solution is technically feasible

We will use the project and the teaching modules to highlight how a design-driven process can help interdisciplinary teams work more effectively through shared process, vocabulary, and objectives.

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