Athletes and coaches want to win. They focus on individual and team skill development to improve their chances. Faulty and inconsistent technique can negatively affect performance. For example, winning at basketball is increasingly affected by 3-point shooting and free throws. Athletes and coaches in all sports are challenged to detect flaws and improve their technique. Existing tools such as video analysis and performance statistics are useful. However, real-time feedback tools are relatively few. In addition, once tools are available, it will take time to learn the best ways to use them and improve them. Significant scientific research will be needed to determine the usefulness of any tool developed.
This IPRO project will focus on the challenge of ingraining and reinforcing good technique. This would allow athletes to embed good habits through muscle memory and proprioception. Feedback would aid in developing consistency and also allow players to understand and counteract the effects of fatigue and other factors that affect their performance.
One specific tool that has been initially conceived by our sponsor, Steven Shake, and requires research is “Dr. Trey.” It is envisioned as a sensor glove worn on a basketball player’s hand that will analyze and record the athlete’s shooting motion and follow-through technique. Work on an initial prototype with limited functionality has been completed. The challenge is to develop a next generation prototype that could be used in full speed practice in a manner that is useful to players and coaches. This would be required to really test the efficacy of a sensor-type device.
Another potential project is to adapt video technology to aid players and coaches in improving player technique. Many tools and apps exist for this purpose, but there appears to be significant room to understand just how they would be most useful to coaches. Coaches typically have a multitude of tools that they have tried and discarded due to poor usability in practice.
Given the wide availability of mobile platforms, it is highly likely that an app of some form will be needed for any tools developed to help athletes and coaches. The ability to translate sensor and video inputs into biomechanical measurements and feedback will also be important. Students with these skills will be needed to ensure the success of this IPRO.
Based on the above background perspective, the initial focus of this IPRO project will be to develop a small, self-contained device suitable for measuring elements of sports mechanics. Since the basketball application has already been researched, the first application will likely be basketball shooting. Students will be asked to keep an open mind about the problem and potential solutions while developing working prototypes to be tested with athletes and coaches.
Since such a sensor and associated apps could be useful in other sports, the IPRO team may explore these opportunities as well or they could be the focus of another IPRO semester project. Use of other technologies such as video will also be considered. Video will likely be needed for developing the algorithms for the sensor devices.
The final products should have the elements of a good design. They should be desirable (users love them), feasible (technically doable) and viable (cost effective). Given the potential of applying low-cost sensors and the need for some level of affordability, attention will be paid to the cost of the devices.
The IPRO team will be challenged technically to make the device durable and not cumbersome, but also “attractive” to stimulate marketing of the device. Worldwide, over 450 million people participate in basketball therefore the device will be both desirable and potentially viable.
The project will require skills from several disciplines. Ideally: biomechanics, electrical and mechanical engineering, app development and interfacing with wireless data devices and use on appropriate platforms, experience with and access to high speed video analysis, and interest in application of virtual reality to sports training and other advanced enabling technologies.
This IPRO project will involve collaboration with Illinois Tech Athletics and the basketball program guided by Coach Todd Kelly. Players may wish to join the IPRO team and/or may have the opportunity to try out the prototypes that are developed.