How Your Engineering Degree Can Be Used in the Sports Industry
While there are no specific sports engineering undergraduate degree programs in the U.S., mechanical, biomedical, manufacturing, industrial and computer engineering are all potential starting points for sports engineering careers, since they all focus on the over-arching concept of enhancing performance and developing new products.
A sports engineer should not be confused with a sports scientist.
The main difference is a sports scientist is interested with what is going on inside an athlete, while a sports engineer is concerned with how an athlete interacts with external factors.
For those of you intrigued by the sexy "athletes and external factors" tagline I just came up with, here are four job opportunities for engineers in the sports industry.
Designing and Testing Prototypes
Get your lab coat ready because some sports engineers will work directly with sport equipment companies to redesign or test new product lines. (Which means we should have a heart-to-heart with the engineers who worked on the Curry 3)
Engineers have to look at specific requirements for the equipment and then produce a rough draft of the product. If the company approves the rough draft, then they can create a final draft of the product and beginning testing.
It is the sole responsibility of the engineer to test equipment in the lab and on the field.
Testing will allow the engineer to see if there are any flaws with the product. Once testing is complete products can be manufactured.
For example, sports engineers could look at the design of a golf putter, create a product with a larger sweet spot and improved head stability as well as better alignment and improved accuracy of the putt.
Better product = more sales. More sales = more revenue. More revenue = sexy.
(I'm really hammering this sports engineers are sexy vibe aren't I? Too much?)
Modern technology allows sports engineers to use computer software to record how products and athletes will be affected by real world situations. They may look at how the tennis racket bends and vibrates after a serve or how air and water flow around athletes and equipment.
Theses simulations allow engineers to study how changes can affect the sport.
The changes can improve athlete performance and still keep sporting regulations upheld. For example, sports engineers look at the different ways golf balls are made to determine which one provides the farthest flight and the best spins for a variety of situations. They also look at golf clubs to determine how different length and shaft angles affect the player’s stroke and ball distance.
Analyze Athletes to Prevent Injuries
Biomedical research and equipment can capture an athlete’s body position as they move, similar to technology used in modern film-making. Engineers are able to study the data from the top, side and front providing information that is naked from the human eye.
This information can help athletes prevent injury during high intensity performance.
With analysis on concussions, engineers can look at the current equipment being used and find solutions to help prevent those injuries.
While the helmet has reduced skull fractures, it has not done a great job preventing brain injury. Engineers have created several alternate helmets and even a collar for your neck to help prevent concussions.
Further research will determine the best products for the job.
Developing Sporting Apparel
Sport engineers have the ability to change what athletes wear to enhance their performance and safety. One of the most common features of uniforms is the moisture wicking ability to keep athlete’s body temperature cooler.
Sporting events that are conducted outdoors has lead to UV protection in uniforms, lightweight materials and shoes that support, protect and enhance the foot. Every sporting event has different needs because there are different external factors involved.
It is the job of the sports engineer to develop the best product for the current situation, and use all the available technological tools.
Sports engineers not only get to design new products, but also be part of the testing of new technology such as electric bicycles, non-slip yoga mats and 3D printed cleats.
While not everyone can be a professional athlete, if you have a love of sports and an obsession for science and technology, sports engineering could be a great career path.
Because being smart is sexy.
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