UTSA researchers develop prototype football kicking simulator

October 31, 2013

In football, kicking is a fundamental and vital part of the game. The few points a kicker scores can make a critical difference in the outcome of a game. To help improve a football kicker's performance, University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) mechanical and bioengineering professor Yusheng Feng and seven students have developed the prototype components for a football kicking simulator designed to be a real-time training tool.

Sponsored by the UTSA Center for Simulation, Visualization and Real-Time Prediction (SiViRT) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Football Kicking Simulation & Human Performance Assessment is a virtual training system that uses real-time wireless feedback and computer sensing to measure football kicking mechanics data. It gives a kicker the ability to practice either on or off the field and receive the same kind of attention to detail he would experience at a training camp. Moreover, the quantitative data collected from the football dynamics and kicker's body motion can not only be used to predict the accuracy of a kick, but also give feedback to maximize the kicking power while mitigating the risk of injury.

In particular, the prototype provides quantifiable measures to improve a football kicker's consistency and reliability by: UTSA mechanical engineering undergraduate students Alyssa Schaefbauer, Cole Meyers, Jacob Kantor and Michael Lasch, kinesiology undergraduate student Ekow Acquaah, along with electrical and computer engineering graduate student Aaron Stout and computer science graduate student Ehren Biglari, have been developing and testing the virtual training system under the mentorship of Feng since February 2012.

"What sets our product apart from other kicking simulations is that we are using computer sensing and mathematical models to predict the football trajectory along with various training tools. It was designed specifically to be used for training rather than a form of entertainment, and it will be affordable," said Schaefbauer, the student team leader.

The group has been working with UTSA Football place-kicker Sean Ianno and assistant coach Perry Eliano to test the simulator and make necessary adjustments for ideal training. In order to consider the human factors in training and coaching, they are also incorporating feedback from faculty members in the UTSA Department of Health and Kinesiology.

"The simulator is an awesome idea. Although it is not a finished product yet, it has the potential to be on the cutting edge of technology and quite possibly could revolutionize how kickers train," said Ianno.

"The kicking simulator is an incredible project and something I believe can be very beneficial not only for our kickers, but for kickers across the country," stated Eliano. "I'm really humbled and thankful that the College of Engineering and their students who worked their tails off on this project chose us to be a part of it."

The research team has published two papers that were presented at the International Workshop on Computer Science in Sports and the Society for Modeling and Simulation International conference this summer.

"The football kicking simulator is a perfect example of how engineering and science can make improvements beyond the scientific arena, such as football, that are of interest to the greater community," said Feng. "It has been exciting to see these students develop into fine researchers who are determined to make a difference in society."

The research team has filed a patent application for the technology through the UTSA Office of Commercialization and Innovation and the team hopes to make the simulator commercially available for coaches and football teams to use as a training tool.
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Established in August 2009 as a result of a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UTSA Center for Simulation, Visualization and Real-Time Prediction is a computation and visualization center that integrates high-performance computing into its activities which include imaging, visualization, modeling and simulation to help faculty and student researchers investigate structural reliability, particle flow, nanotechnology, biomechanics, computational neuroscience and cancer treatment simulation.

The SiViRT Center aims to shape UTSA's research environment by creating and supporting first-hand collaborative research and design experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students year-round. It is an interdisciplinary research center where students can apply their knowledge through teamwork. Learn more about the SiViRT Center at http://www.sivirt.utsa.edu.

For further information regarding the licensing of this or any UTSA technology, contact the UTSA Office of Commercialization and Innovation at oci@utsa.edu or call (210) 458-6963.

Connect online with UTSA at http://www.utsa.edu, http://www.facebook.com/utsa, http://www.twitter.com/utsa or http://www.youtube.com/utsa.

About UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is an emerging Tier One research institution specializing in health, energy, security, sustainability, and human and social development. With nearly 29,000 students, it is the largest university in the San Antonio metropolitan region. UTSA advances knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. The university embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

University of Texas at San Antonio

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