Nick Hamilton

Engaging Students and Wider Public With Sports Engineering Through Social Media

This grant supported the attendance and activity of students at the 2019 Special Topics in Sports Engineering course, held at Delft Technical University, as a vehicle to engage the participating students and wider general public in sports engineering. Through attendance in this course the students were exposed to the global sports engineering community network and the activities facilitated the expansion of the international network.

In total 8 students from the MSc Sports Engineering course at Sheffield Hallam University attended the two-week course which is delivered collaboratively between TU Delft, Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), and VU Amsterdam. Working in interdisciplinary teams the students from the collaborating universities completed an engineering challenge based around a theme relevant to sports engineering.

The students were challenged to create a predictive model of a track cyclist, with the students having to predict how quickly a cyclist could complete an acceleration lap from a standing start, and then how far the cyclist would travel if they were to coast to standstill. The accuracy of the models was assessed in a live test at the Sportpaleis Alkmaar Velodrome, with each team responsible for sourcing a bicycle and cyclist for the test. To support the creation of their models, students attended a series of lectures, laboratories, seminars and workshops covering topics including; predictive modelling, bicycle stability and rolling resistance, aerodynamics, cycling biomechanics, thermo physiology, and power endurance in sport.
Particular highlights included; a tour of the TU Delft wind tunnels where the Dutch cycling team just happened to be testing their new track bike for Tokyo 2020; and a talk by Team Sunweb on the preparation, and performance prediction, of their cyclists in time trial events. Students conducted VO2max and Wingate tests on their team cyclists at the VU Amsterdam physiology labs to understand their power output, and an experimental test day was held at the TU Delft sports hall.

The final models were assessed in a live test at the Sportpaleis Alkmaar Velodrome. Prior to taking to the track student teams presented their predictions for the first lap time and the coasting distance travelled. Students were not permitted to coach or instruct their cyclists during the event and instead had to wait for the results that were measured and scrutinised by participating staff. The winning team posted a first lap time within 0.01 seconds of their predicted time and implemented a Monte Carlo simulation to assess the likelihood of their predictions. Their reward was the coveted Special Topics Course golden bicycle bell.

Throughout the course students were encouraged to be involved in documenting and sharing their experiences. Prior to commencement of the event the SHU students received pre-course training and advice on the effective use of social media from the SHU ASPA social media engagement team. Specific social media platforms were chosen for specific target audiences including Instagram (secondary/higher education), Twitter (general public), and LinkedIn (professionals/business). Existing social media channels and networks within the Centre for Sports Engineering Research, and Sheffield Hallam University were used for this activity, with media released on a daily basis.

Additional to this activity student testimonials of partaking in the course were collated, and blog articles of the experience have been created and hosted on the engineering and physics blog. A further blog article concerning the technical details of the challenge is in production to be released late summer. The experiences and details of this visit and activity are also to be shared at the SHU SPARC research seminar series later this year, to highlight the benefits of partaking in such experiences.

Through participating in this course and the associated activities the students, not only had a lot of fun, but gained valuable experience of working with engineers, sports scientists, and academics from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. This was evident in the collated written testimonies, sample extracts of which can be seen below;

“Overall, I found this course to be challenging and interesting, but most importantly fun. The course allowed for new skills to be developed and knowledge to be learned, and then to be applied to the task at hand. To come up with a model and test it against an actual experiment was really interesting and enjoyable.”

“It was really nice to work with different universities and I think that is the best element of this course. In this way you learn a lot and it is also fun to learn about the other ‘cultures’ of the different universities.”

“These two-weeks went by so fast because each day was a new adventure, each day meant new friends and new experiences. All these aspects combined with the fact that we had to do the thing that we truly love is amazing.“

“To conclude I learned a lot the last two weeks, made new friends from different universities and became really enthusiastic about sports engineering and all its different topics. Thank you for offering me this possibility!”

SHU students participation in this activity was only possible due to the kind ISEA assistance in meeting the shortfall in associated cost, after student contribution, and SHU contribution. As such the awarded grant application was used in full to support the travel costs associated with this activity.


Promoting Sports Engineering at the Bespoked Bristol Bicycle Event

This Engaging Sports Engineering Grant supported our exhibition stand at the Bespoked Bristol Bicycle Show in May 2019. Bespoked is Europe’s biggest event relating to custom bicycles and their makers, with typically more than 6000 visitors from all around the world. It is the place for the public, industry and press to meet the independent makers and designers of the bicycle world. Our exhibition stand included members of the International Bicycle Engineering Group (IBERG: Dr Derek Covill (University of Brighton) and Dr Andres Velázquez, and Dr Velázquez also had his team on hand from the Escuela Técnica de la Bicicleta, Madrid, Spain.

At the show, we also tried to maximise our exposure by delivering a headline presentation on the Friday evening at the event to the general public and to representatives from the industry. For this presentation we were joined by our IBERG colleague Prof. Jean-Marc Drouet from the VÉLUS Laboratory at the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada, who presented with us over skype. Our presentation introduced Sports Engineering and the ISEA, and discussed a range of Bicycle related Sports Engineering research topics and was also a great platform for us to launch our new research project: The Steel Bicycle Project. This project aims to bring the benefits of sports engineering research to industry by raising awareness of engineering principles that relate to bicycle design and to support frame builders in designing and fabricating better and safer products.

In the lead-up to the show we were featured in the show’s newsletter, and an article was written about the project on the cycling industry news website (

Over the course of the long weekend we were able to discuss Sports Engineering and Bicycle related projects to a nice wide audience. Memorable conversations were had with keen cyclists, parents of cyclists, academics, frame builders, equipment manufacturers, tube manufacturers, bicycle designers, aerospace engineers, automotive engineers, mechanical engineers, nuclear submarine welding experts, helicopter rotor blade stress engineers, and many more! We found it to be a highly engaging experience, and we did a small survey to assess the impact of our work there. We found that 88% of those surveyed believed that what we are doing is valuable for consumers, while 85% felt they had a better understanding of what sports engineering (and also bicycle engineering) is as a result of our work, and finally 85% of those surveyed believed that what we are doing is valuable for the industry (85%).

The funding from the Engaging Sports Engineering Grant was used to pay for the event itself, including the exhibition stand and peripheries (e.g. power), printing pop-up banners and onsite parking. It was also used to pay for a desktop rig (including frame materials, measurement equipment, electronics) which could used to demonstrate some fundamental mechanical properties of bicycle frames and the methods used to join them together. As part of the show, we also started doing a survey of professionals bicycle frame builders and manufacturers, to gauge their wants and needs to help inform the direction of our the project from here. Following this and some initial experiments we’ve been carrying out in recent months, we are aiming to present our work at the 2020 ISEA conference in Tokyo. For us this is just the start, we’re hoping to grow this project to work with a wide range of frame builders and tube manufacturers in particular, to help generate new knowledge in the field and bring the benefits of sports engineering research to industry. We thank the ISEA for giving us the opportunity to promote Sports Engineering at such a high profile and popular event, and for enabling us to kickstart our project in style!


Prevention, Precision and Protection: The Engineering of Sport

The funds contributed towards costs for running three public engagement events (e.g. materials/ consumables, marketing materials, popup banners, travel etc.) at Manchester Science Festival 2018:

1) An Ace History of Tennis at Manchester Tennis and Rackets Club (MTRC) on 20th Oct.,

2) High Tech Tennis at The Northern on 27th Oct., and

3) Boobytrap at Chillfactore on 21st Oct.

The participants at the tennis events included festivalgoers, MTRC and The Northern members and members of other tennis clubs. The event at MTRC tended to attract adults, with an interest in tennis and local history, who had booked onto the highly informative guided tours of the historical building, which dates back to 1880 and is the oldest sports facility in Greater Manchester to have retained its use to the present day. In contrast, the event at The Northern tended to attract families who stayed for the afternoon to engage with the more hands on activities, including the opportunity to play with a variety of tennis rackets of different ages. The Zenizz smart court was particularly popular, as was the smart racket with an inbuilt sensor from HEAD. Both events were supported by staff from Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, helping to raise their profile within Manchester, while showcasing the rich history of tennis and The Championships at Wimbledon. Neither event attracted the numbers we had hoped for, possibly
due to their locations away from the main festival hub at the Science and Industry Museum, but feedback from participants (verbal and written) was very positive, so we can consider the events to be a success.

The participants at the snowsport events included festivalgoers, members of public using the ski slope and shoppers/diners, participants in the Boobytrap event and their family/friends and members of local and regional snow sports clubs. We were part of a larger science festival event at Chillfactore, which included disability snowsport, snowmaking, snowsport clothing and a 3D scanner for ski booting custom fitting, amongst others. The event was well attended, and in this instance the location away from the city centre was an advantage, as was the additional appeal of the activities run by others, attracting a different demographic, including youths and families from the local area. We felt that this event was particularly good at introducing youths, who may not otherwise engage in the science festival, to the often hidden science and engineering behind snowsports. We also hope that showcasing and discussing our work will have the additional benefit of encouraging snowsports participants to wear protective equipment.

The three events were also publicised on social media, including an online quiz (, allowing us to reach and inspire people who did not attend in person. The online quiz included the question “Sports engineers are…?”, and we received the following answers, which we think are insightful and reflective of the verbal feedback we received at the events.






The events were also of benefit to the University students, including undergraduate student helpers and PhD students who had the opportunity to talk about their work with a new audience and develop their public engagement skills. The visitors provided valuable feedback and engaged in discussions, which challenges the PhD students and helps them to think differently about their research. Three of our PhD students are now registered STEM Ambassadors. As a team, we now have better skills, knowledge, materials and activities in place to undertake similar events in the future, as well as teaching and outreach. So far, in addition to Manchester Science Festival we have run activities at, i) Bradford Science Festival, ii) Science Uncovered Manchester European Researchers Night at Manchester Museum, iii) Careers in Sports Engineering at Sale High School, iv) Platform of Investigation at the Science and Industry Museum, v) Women in Physics event at Urmston Grammar on 9th November and vi) Platform of Investigation – Discovering Engineering at the Science and Industry Museum.

In addition, Tom Allen received the award of Faculty Science Communication Champion in 2018, which includes £500 to contribute towards further public engagement activities.


3rd Sports Engineering Seminar Day – 31st January 2019, Loughborough University

This January, the Sports Technology Insitute at Loughborough University, hosted the 3rd “Sports Engineering Seminar Day”. The seminar day is a free, student-led, one day event, which brings together the community of sports engineers in order to communicate the latest work being conducted in the field. The day also provides opportunities for networking and potential future sports engineering collaborations and careers, for both current and prospective sports engineers. The event was possible through the generous funding contributions from ISEA’s Engaging Sports Engineering Grant and the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering at Loughborough Univeristy.

The 3rd installment of the event consisted of a tour of the laboratories at the Sports Technology Institute and oral presentations devivered by researchers and academics from Loughborough, Manchester Metropolitan, Sheffield Hallam and Nottingham Trent universities as well industrial speakers from Adidas, the ECB, Gunn & Moore and NURVV. The event and presentations were segmented across four main research themes: 1) Human movement and measurement 2) Prevention and mechanisms of injury 3) Materials, apparel and equipment 4) Modern technologies. Prizes kindly donated by Adidas were awarded for the best student presentation and the two most engaging audience members.

In total, 120 delegates across 11 universities and 7 industrial companies attended the event, continuing the trend of increased attendance year on year. This year there were a mixture of new and familiar faces from previous seminar days in attendance, therefore continuing to expand the UK hub of sports engineers built via the seminar events.

Feedback from the event was all positive, with 65% of respondants rating the day as “very good”, with the remaining 35% rating it as “good”. The attendees praised the range of presentations, both in terms of academic/indsustry and the topics covered, with the quality of the presentations also being highlighted as a positive from the event. The feedback gathered from the 3rd hosting of the event has been passed on to Sheffield Hallam university, who will be hosting the 4th seminar day next year and we at Loughborough wish them all the best and are sure they will host a great event.

On behalf of the 3rd Sports Engineering Seminar day committee, we would like to reiterate our thanks to ISEA, the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering and Adidas, who’s support enabled us to make this day possible. We would also like to thank all the speakers who gave up their time to present high quality content to the attendees, and all the attendees themselves, for supporting the event and being engaing and proactive during the day.