We often speak about the significance that participating in sport brings to improving our well-being socially, mentally and spiritually. But on the competition side, those involved in sport are also always looking for ways to improve their performance, which will range from the psychology and physiology of sport to improving the equipment used. These tools of the trade not only include moving the human body faster and higher, but also refining any equipment used to transport the body towards superior performances. Skates, pole vault poles, skis and running shoes are just a few examples of the type of apparatus utilized by athletes.
One institution that is taking a lead role in such design changes is the SAIT Polytechnic (Southern Institute of Applied Technology) in Calgary, Alberta, who has become involved in the development and modifications to sleds used for the winter sports of skeleton, luge and bobsleigh. Despite their relative inexperience in working in sport, the team under the direction of Principal Investigator Dr. Alex Zahavich, Director, ARIS-SAIT (Applied Research and Innovation Services), was initially commissioned by Bobsleigh Canada in 2006 to design skeleton sleds that would perform well at a reasonable cost, hopefully increasing participation in the sport. Long term goals were to develop high performance sleds for international competitions an area they have successfully moved in to.
The SAIT incremental strategy was to buy technology (i.e. equipment) from other countries and then reverse engineer their sleds. Also vital to the process was that the design team, including journeymen machinists and welders, had to actually slide their prototypes down a sliding course so that they fully understood the experience. So extraordinary is their contribution to the sliding world, the advancements accomplished at SAIT, in conjunction with Canada’s Own the Podium (OTP), was featured by the Discovery Channel.
Using research and development to change equipment - construction design and materials - is one very essential tactic to keep competing athletes on the cutting edge, giving them an advantage on the world stage.
For more information on sports research and development, please visit SIRC.