27 August 2012
Giving Paralympians the competitive edge
Sports technology researchers at RMIT University are giving Australian Paralympians the competitive edge in London this week.
The academics and research students from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering have been working with elite athletes in wheelchair rugby and wheelchair racing in the lead-up to the London Paralympic Games.
The research projects have been led by Professor Aleksandar Subic, Dean of Engineering and Head of School, and Professor Franz Konstantin Fuss, SportzEdge Program Leader within the RMIT Platform Technologies Research Institute.
The research involved personalised design customisation and optimisation of sports wheelchairs.
Researchers conducted extensive tests with the Australian Paralympic wheelchair rugby team members, both on court and in the laboratory, using a range of innovative approaches and technologies.
Professor Subic said: “The RMIT team has also been developing a novel performance ranking and activity classification system based on a range of innovative analytical and computational techniques.
“The systems engineering approach that we have devised enabled us to relate personal attributes of athletes and their performance requirements with the wheelchair design parameters.”
Professor Fuss said: “The research produced a number of new techniques, such as obtaining acceleration data in the field using Apple 4G iPhones and analysing the performance data using fractal dimensions.”
Another related project has resulted in a forward-dynamic, inverse-kinematic model of wheelchair propulsion.
It has led to specific guidelines for optimal wheelchair design and operation to aid national coaches.
This ground-breaking work of the research team has just been reported in the highly ranked international journal Medical Engineering and Physics.
Australian rugby wheelchair Paralympian Jason Lees during ergometer testing at RMIT’s Sports Engineering Lab. Mr Lees won silver at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Photo: Clara C Usma Alvarez.
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