Saša Čigoja

Research exchange with Dr. Andrew Cresswell at University of Queensland

The financial support from the ISEA in form of the ISEA Student Engagement Award allowed me to partially fund a research exchange with Dr. Andrew Cresswell’s research group at the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences, University of Queenland, Brisbance, Australia.

Dr. Cresswell’s laboratory is the leading research facility in assessing the mechanics of the human foot arch, intrinsic foot muscles, and in-vivo ultrasound imaging. My personal goals for this research exchange were to gain insight on the advantages and limitations of indwelling electromyography (EMG), and the assessment of foot arch mechanics in different footwear conditions. While visiting the lab, I had the pleasure to observe and participate in multiple studies, where, for example, the activity of intrinsic foot muscles and their influence on foot and lower limb mechanics were measured. For this, ultrasound-guided fine-wire electrodes were inserted into the foot (Figure 1) while 3D kinematic and kinetics were assessed during various jumping tasks (Figure 2) by a motion capture system and force plates, respectively. Further, a nerve block was used to inhibit the contracting abilities of the intrinsic foot muscles. Additionally, I was able to significantly extend my own analyses on the role of the arch and how its mechanics are affected by increased midsole bending stiffness of sport shoes. With great assistance from Drs. Luke Kelly and Ryan Riddick, I modelled the plantar muscle-tendon unit (plantar aponeurosis + intrinsic foot muscles) and its mechanics in different footwear conditions during running and jumping using previously collected data. This in-depth analysis of the interaction between multiple (in-series/in-parallel) compliances of the foot-shoe interface will be included in two poster presentations at the upcoming Footwear Biomechanics Symposium and the International Society of Biomechanics conference in Kananaskis and Calgary.

I would like to thank the ISEA for awarding me the Student Engagement Award, which helped me fund visiting one of the leading biomechanics research laboratories in the world, and therefore allowed me to improve my research skills tremendously.


23rd International Congress of Snow Sports Trauma and Safety

The 23rd International Congress on Snow Sports Trauma and Safety (ISSS) was held in Squaw Valley, California on 7-13th April 2019. Thanks to the ISEA student engagement award I was able to present the findings of my PhD, through a presentation titled ‘Comparison of a Finite Element (FE) model for snowboard wrist protectors against an impact test’. As the student member of the executive committee I was also able to present on ‘How the ISEA supports snow sport safety’, providing more information to the ISSS about the ISEA, and enhancing links between the two communities.

The week was full of exciting talks and discussions on how we can make snow sports safer, from physicians, orthopaedic surgeons, experts in biomechanics and engineering, epidemiologists, ski patrollers and snow sports equipment manufacturers from all over the world. Attending this conference provided me with a chance to gain relevant and specific feedback from experts within snow sport safety on my project. As well as to share my research with members of the ISO 20320 working group, developing a standard for snowboard wrist protectors, which is on track for publication in the near future. The conference was also a great networking platform to meet people for potential job prospects as I come to the end of my PhD.

Being able to visit an Olympic ski resort, meet new people and experts in my field of research was a fantastic experience. The week got even better when at the conference banquet I was awarded the Sachiko Yahashi Award for the best young researcher at the conference. I am very grateful to the ISEA for helping to fund my trip to this great conference, it has given me great feedback on my research at a crucial time, aiding me to finalise my thesis and prepare for my viva defence.


Special Topic Course in Delft 2018

The Sports Engineering Institute of the TU Delft invited students from Delft, Shefflied, Chemnitz, Amsterdam and Vienna for a two-week Special Topic Course. In this annually course, students are having the unique chance to collaborate with students of Sports Science, Mechanical Engineering and Sports Engineering from different universities.
With the help of the great funds of the ISEA, I could take part on this unique course. The funds covered almost all of my accommodation and travel costs.

The main topic of the Special Topic Course was about all relevant sciences of the bikesport like Aerodynamics and Dynamics. During the lectures have always been room for interesting discussions. As a special bonus, some lectures were hold by specialist of famous dutch bike companies and bike team members. This was really interesting for me, because my plan for the future is to work in the bicycle industry as a R&D engineer.

Apart of this theoretical part of the course, we worked together in groups of max. four students on two practical projects, an innovation challenge and a simulation task. We had to meet ourself in our spare time and worked together on both projects. By being a well mixed group with students from Amsterdam, Sheffield, Delft and Vienna with different study backgrounds, each group member could benefits of the collaboration. As a highlight, we went on the last day to a velodrome for the final presentations of the innovation task and also for the simulation test. It was interesting to hear about the ideas of all other groups and how they solved the problems and tasks.

To come to an conclusion, I am very thankful for the funds of the ISEA because without them I couldn’t take part on this amazing course in Delft where I learned a lot in many aspects.


Thesis / Professional practice in Japan

I would like to extend my gratitude to ISEA for awarding me the student engagement award. As I conducted an unpaid research project for my honours thesis in Tokyo, Japan for three months, the award most definitely helped me to cover Tokyo’s expensive living costs and allowed me to focus on my research.

I was accepted to do my thesis project in Sophia University, Japan at Dr. Takehara’s laboratory. The project was designed to determine wrist acceleration during a forehand overhead smash in badminton using a wrist mounted accelerometer and motion capture cameras. The results were used to determine which type of badminton racket best suited individual elite and novice players based on the consistency of the racket velocity. Through conducting trials, I calculated peak acceleration during smash shots and examined the consistency of the acceleration. Among other things, results indicated that experienced and novice players performed the fastest and most consistent smashes with rackets that had an evenly balanced distribution of mass. As this was a short-term project, further research was suggested to investigate the outcomes employing a larger number of trials and subjects.

The experience working as a research engineer in Japan gave me insight into the world of engineering outside of the context of coursework at university. Working at Dr. Takehara’s laboratory, I was given the opportunity to recognise how exciting and broad the field of engineering is. I believe research/engineering is a field that brings individuals as well as nations together, as we all seek for one thing – a better future through education and knowledge.

The experience of conducting research in Japan has inspired me to pursue engineering opportunities in different countries. After graduating I hope to gain employment abroad and to use the skills I have obtained through studying and research to contribute to the field of engineering as a professional engineer.


Presenting ‘Comparison of biomechanical data of a sprint cyclist in the velodrome and the laboratory’.

I am a final year sports biomechanics PhD student and ISEA granted me a £500 student engagement award which helped me to travel to Auckland, New Zealand to present at the International Society of Biomechanics in Sports Conference 2018. I was shortlisted for the New Investigator Award and as such had to present in the main lecture hall to a panel of judges. This was a great experience for me to showcase my research and get feedback from other sports biomechanics researchers.
There were some very thought provoking and engaging keynote presentations, in particular Sophia Nymphius from Edith Cowan University who presented ‘re-evaluating what the know about female athletes in biomechanics research: across the continuum from capacity to skill.’ The main idea of her talk was that most of the mechanical gender differences found by numerous studies can be traced back to strength or training experience, and in papers where these have been normalised or matched, often there are no mechanical differences between men and women. There were some interesting presentations on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning and their applications to biomechanics. These methods have the potential to allow collection of more and detailed biomechanical data in-situ and in a much larger capture volume than with traditional marker-based systems. This is particularly relevant to my research as we try to move to more field-based measurement of biomechanical variables, and my presentation highlighted that we need to measure biomechanics of sporting movement in a representative environment.
While attending the conference I was able me to network with biomechanics researchers from around the world. We had a visit to AUT Millennium which is a high-performance centre and where sports science research and applied support to the NZ team is undertaken. We had some practical demonstrations of the equipment at the centre.
I would like to thank the ISEA for awarding me this grant, as the experience was very valuable in my progression as a researcher and to my PhD.


Use of auxetic foams for low bulk, high mobility, protective equipment for mountain biking

The funding provided by the ISEA allowed me to attend the 2018 International Auxetics Conference in Sheffield, to present a poster as part of the AuxetNet Young Reaserchers Forum. The funding was used to cover my registration fee for the event, and without it it would not have been possible for me to attend.

My poster presentation was on the “use of auxetic foams for low bulk, high mobility, protective equipment for mountain biking”, and was a summary of the work carried out for my Undergraduate Dissertation at Sheffield Hallam in Sport Technology. Presenting this work allowed me to receive feedback from a broad range of other delegates from around the world, feedback that shall be invaluable as I continue my research and studies in my Sports Engineering masters degree.
The conference also opened my eyes to just how broad a subject area auxetics is. Having only worked with auxetic foams to date, it was extremely interesting to gain some knowledge of other auxetic structures, and begin to think about how they may also be applicable to sports equipment design, in particular sports PPE. There were a number of presentations made on the possible use of auxetic materials in sports equipment, proving to me that this is very much an area for continued research as a sports engineer.

The breaks throughout the day, and evening meals, gave the perfect opportunity to discuss with other researchers about their work, and think about how it could be useful for my future studies, and to discuss my findings to potentially help them. On the penultimate night we were treated to a gala dinner in the cutlers hall in Sheffield city centre. Having lived in Sheffield for the past 4 years now it was interesting to experience a building that I have never had the opportunity to visit properly in my time here. The dinner, and pub later, provided the opportunity to get to know the other delegates on a more personal level, rather than purely academic, and as a result strengthen my relationship with these contacts who I am sure I shall have contact with when conducting future work.

I would like to thank the ISEA for the Student Engagement award, as it provided me with this experience that has set me up well for my continued study in Sports Engineering. It has also prepared me well for future conferences that I shall be required to present at, as I progress through my intended career of research and development of sport protective equipment.


Presenting: ‘Plantar Pressure Distridution through auxetics and conventional foam sheets’

The ISEA student engagement award enabled me to attend the 9th International Conference and 14th Workshop on Auxetics and Related System with ‘Negative’ Characteristics held at Sheffield Hallam University from September 10th-13th 2018 for an oral presentation. I presented the work carried out between the Materials and Engineering Research Institute and the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University supervised by Andy Alderson and Olly Duncan during an international placement from Loyola ICAM College of Engineering and Technology, Chennai, India. The grant covered my travel to the conference and other expenses.

Delegates from all around the world came to attend this conference. I had a great opportunity to interact with professors and students from various other disciplines in the field of science and engineering. It made me see how a simple concept can be used in so many different fields. Even though I was nervous about the oral presentation as it was my first conference, the delegates easily understood what I was trying to convey. I was also able to answer their questions and I got a few more points for future work. I received valuable feedback from everyone about the presentation too. This has encouraged me to follow a career in research. I am now looking forward to the next conference that is in Poznan, Poland next year, with more work to contribute.


Presenting:’The effects of various customised mouthguard designs on physiological parameters and comfort in male boxers’

The ISEA student engagement award enabled me to attend the 6th International Congress on Sport Sciences Research and Technology Support by covering the travel and accommodation costs. This year, University of Seville was chosen to host the conference on 20-21st September.

Injury prevention in sport was one of the topics included in the programme, which directly correlated to my work on sports mouthguards. Being towards the end of my PhD, it was valuable experience to present part of my research at an international conference and exchange ideas for potential collaboration with other professionals in the field. The feedback I received was very encouraging and further motivated me to continue my work.

The conference was very well organised and interactive. All delagates managed to create both very friendly and professional environment during the lecture sessions, which helped creating interesting discussions. Also, everyone who presented a poster had the chance to tell us more about it in 5-10 minutes. I thought this was a very good approach to run the posters session. This gave me the chance to meet and exchange contacts with someone who wants to start similar research to mine. Additionally, talking to other PhD students and academics from countries such as Australia, Norway, Ireland, Japan, Portugal, Russia and more allowed me to learn more about various experiences in academia and career in research at other parts of the world.

I would like to thank the ISEA for giving me the opportunity to present my work abroad. I managed to create some new contacts and had a great time visiting Seville.


Auxetic Protective Equipment

I am approaching the final year of my PhD and as such giving an oral presentation was an excellent opportunity for me to disseminate my work amongst academics and researchers in the wider community. I gained some useful feedback which will feed in to the progression of the study I am currently working on. Equally, the conference brought together the ideas and developments of researchers working in various industries across the auxetics community, which helped me to think outside the box about the ways that I currently use auxetic materials in my research. In addition, as my research is based at the Manchester Fashion Institute and many of the other delegates are in engineering, sciences and technical textiles, I found the breaks in the conference particularly useful for generating conversation with researchers in other fields as well as gaining feedback and new ideas. Presenting my work in a professional environment also prompted interest from delegates working in the textile industry, who have discussed the potential of working with myself through the university on a project in the future. In particular, the delegates have offered to share the contacts that they have at sports brands which may be useful for me when I start applying for jobs and looking for opportunities in the sports industry.

The student engagement award has enabled me to attend the Auxetics 2018 conference at Sheffield Hallam University and present the work that I have produced over the past two years. From this experience I have constructive feedback and generated new ideas which will largely help me to shape and progress the final studies of my PhD.


Presenting: “Validation of a finite element modelling process for auxetic structures in sports applications”

The ISEA kindly granted me the full funding of £500, which enabled me to attend the 9th International Conference and the 14th International Workshop on Auxetics and Related System with ‘Negative’ Characteristics. The conference was held at Sheffield Hallam University between the 10th and 13th September and the ISEA funding enabled me to pay the registration/attendance fees, as well as train tickets for the commute between Manchester and Sheffield each day.

The conference was well organised with delegates from over 15 countries presenting their work. I was therefore given the opportunity to present my latest findings (and receive valued feedback) to an array of experts from different areas within the auxetics field, which I enjoyed greatly, and it has provided fresh inspiration to continue working hard on my research. The conference also enabled me to network with various delegates who work on similar topics, such as finite element modelling and additive manufacturing. Hopefully, some form of collaboration can arise from this networking. I am looking forward to attending the next auxetics conference in Poznan, Poland, in 2019, where I should be able to deliver some key and final findings from my PhD. Some of the feedback received during the conference has also provided me with some alternative viewpoints on my research, which hopefully I can investigate in more detail in the coming months.

Despite living relatively close to Sheffield, I have never had the chance see the city properly. Fortunately, we were taken on a very informative and entertaining walking tour on one of the afternoons and even saw a building whose design looked as it was inspired by auxetic structures. The conference meal at the famous ‘Cutlers Hall’ was also an experience that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
All of this was made possible by the full support of the ISEA and meant that I could completely immerse myself in the experience of an international conference once more – thank you very much.