Sports Engineering, A personal Journey

Jonathan Shepherd at Manchester United
Jonathan visits Manchester United

How I went from the snowfields of Victoria, to the Gold Coast and now to England to discover the world of Sports Engineering by Jonathan Shepherd

My journey to becoming a sports engineer started 5 years ago in the Victorian ski fields with the simple question, who has the job of designing, testing and engineering snow skis? Like all complex 21st century questions, and in the downtime between runs, I consulted google. It was here I met the concept of a sports engineer. After a few more clicks and a few more ski runs, I stumbled upon a video introduction by A/Prof Daniel James and I was hooked on the idea of studying Sport and Biomedical Engineering at Griffith University.

After a gap year abroad I returned to Australia, up sticks and moved to the sunny Gold Coast to start the road on becoming a sports engineer. The undergraduate path was a journey in itself with the lessons in the classroom, whilst valuable, taking somewhat of a backseat. The real lessons came from the people around me, those lucky enough to call the Gold Coast home and the social and professional networks I created from my time on the coast studying at Griffith University.

This year, being my final of my undergraduate degree, I finally entered the world that is sports engineering. Over my semester break, I joined the team at SABEL labs, Griffith University. It was here I gained a taste into what sports engineering was all about and I loved it. I got invaluable hands-on experience with inertial sensors, motion capture systems, programming, product assembly as well as gaining a great insight into the world of sports research and helping out at Cricket Australia’s national conference.

Fast forward to now, and I am currently embarking on my final 14-week project of my undergraduate degree completing the Industry Affiliates program, an industry based work-integrated research program (http://www.griffith.edu.au/industry-affiliates-program).

Realising the benefit going global and creating an international network I again took to google to discover who was leading the world in sports engineering research. I found Sheffield Hallam University and their Centre for Sports Engineering (CSER) in England. Their large team had an extremely diverse range of expertise, they were engaged in stimulating research, they had a high calibre of staff and they had quite high profile cliental therefore all these factors made CSER an alluring choice for my IAP project. Here’s there website link http://www.shu.ac.uk/research/cser/.

After contacting them and being accepted, I was assigned a research project on the topic of a sport based impact protection study into auxetic materials. To give you some background, auxetic materials are a classification of materials that have a negative Poisson’s ratio. The unusual property of this material is when a force is applied longitudinally the material will expand transversely. They also have many other interesting properties that could be used in the world of sports including; increased compressive strength and shear stiffness, high indentation resistance, great resilience, high energy dissipation levels and heighted acoustic absorption at low frequencies. These properties have rendered uses for auxetic materials across a broad spectrum of industries including; biomedical, aerospace, automotive, military, chemical engineering, construction, apparel companies and energy sectors.

If you’re interested in auxetics here’s a link which gives some background into the material by Dr Andy Alderson, one of the researchers on my project team here at SHU. The part on Auxetics starts around 10mins 15seconds. http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/9305/regional-programmes

Jonathan at work at Sports Engineerings ancestral home in Sheffield
Jonathan at work at Sports Engineerings ancestral home in Sheffield

I’m already a couple of weeks into working here at CSER and it’s been an amazing experience so far. My project is forging ahead; I’ve created auxetics materials, accomplished some preliminary testing and data collection (pictured beside), met with potential external investors and my project work has even been filmed for a program on the BBC. Outside the scope of my project, I’ve been busy as well with other CSER activities. Including work in the fields of biomechanics, inertial sensing, materials testing, 3D body scanning and I even got to be involved with some goal line testing (pictured at the top).

I’m really looking forward to the rest of my research visit here at CSER and stepping out into a career as a sports engineer.


Thoughts? Leave a comment here.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: