Vince Lombardi Would Have Loved This Football Tech

Data-analysing football sled may measure strengths and weaknesses in tomorrow’s football players.

Famous Greenbay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi urging his players on as they practice on a blocking sled at the team's training camp in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 17 July 1967.

Famous Greenbay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi urging his players on as they practice on a blocking sled at the team’s training camp in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 17 July 1967.

Legendary Greenbay Packers coach Vince Lombardi had a unique way of measuring the performance of linemen: he would stand on the blocking sled and judge performances firsthand. Thanks to Florida Tech mechanical engineering majors there is a more scientific way to do that. The senior design project will allow coaches to analyze their player’s performance in sled tackling.

“Modern-day football sleds provide no means of collecting or storing the data generated when used, and are limited in their ways of varying resistance,” said Steve Campbell, mechanical engineering major at Florida Institute of Technology in the university’s blog, eCURRENT.

Campbell and his team of mechanical engineering majors set out to change this, discovering that they could swiftly and accurately vary the resistance in a re-designed sled. How? By altering the internal pressure in an attached air cylinder and making the resultant force correspond with the user’s weight.

This air cylinder is what provides the data appearing on a coach’s tablet, or other smart device, recording stroke displacement and allowing calculation of the player’s effort, adds Campbell. “Once the coach hits ‘Start’ on the tablet, the light/buzzer will turn on and the player will hit the sled. The light triggers the start of a timer, which stops when the player hits the pad and then records their reaction time.”

The player’s power is determined with another timer deactivated by the complete compression of the sleds pneumatic cylinder. All the information recorded is displayed on a spreadsheet accessible to the user.

As a senior design project, Campbell’s team came across a number of obstacles. “Every time you think you solved one problem, another pops up,” he said. “The biggest challenge our team faced was programming. No one on our team has any experience with LabVIEW before senior design, but we know it pretty well now.”

Budget problems and deadlines also posed significant risks, but also provided learning opportunities for real-world design challenges. The team spent over half their budget. “We probably could have saved money by buying steel and constructing our own football sled,” Campbell said.

Campbell advises future senior design presenters to not give up and stay on target, but most importantly, to enjoy themselves as they work on something they believe in. “Stay on target, but try to have a good time while doing it,” he said. “Hard work pays off.”

While Lombardi would likely have disagreed with the first sentiment, there is no doubt he’d embrace the second. Let us know your thoughts below.