Jono’s Sports Tech Adventure In Italy

winter-school-2015It seems our latest PhD student Jonathan Shepherd is continuing his wandering ways, finding a way to duck back to Europe for some *cough* skiing research, read on to hear his story…

Between the 8th and 13th of March, the International Society for Skiing Safety (ISSS – http://www.isss2015.com/ ) held their 21st congress in the spectacular San Vito di Cadore, Cortina, Italy. The event was preceded by the 5th International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA) winter school which ran from the 4th until the 8th.

The winter school attendees comprised of 35 students from 12 different universities from all parts of the globe. In addition many senior researchers and industry partners also joined the group engage in the unique opportunity to engage in on-snow field research on the stunning San Vito slopes. The 9 research projects that were on offer to students crossed all parts of winter sports engineering with projects focused on biomechanics, equipment mechanics and classification of performance. Giving participants the rare chance to send a fully instrumented dummy hurtling down a ski slope or the opportunity to use inertial sensor based motion capture system in conjunction with an instrumented snowboard to assess landing mechanics and the impact of jump design. These projects and the required testing equipment was made possible with the aid of terrific industry partners, the San Vito snow resort management and the ISEA winter school organising committee. This meant each of the groups got to use the latest cutting-edge technologies in ecologically valid testing conditions ensuring not only great data outputs but a terrific hands-on experience for each of the participants.

After two days of field testing (in perfect bluebird conditions I might add!) and one day of data dissemination the winter school culminated in a mini-conference where each group presented their research outputs. The quality of the presentations was outstanding – a testament to the driven participates but also the support is given by the senior researchers and winter school organisational committee. The senior researchers and industry partners were arduously tasked with judging our presentations – a tough task indeed. The prize for the top two finishing groups was to present later that afternoon at the opening of the ISSS Congress.  Much to my shock, the group I participated managed to win best group presentation with our study on the effect of dehydration on thermoregulation whilst alpine touring.

winter-school-groupThe ISSS Congress that followed was an amazing collaboration of knowledge with all manner of stakeholders from the field of winter sports meeting with the common goal to improve snow sports safety. The scientific content of the conference brought together medical practitioners, winter sport research academics, snow sports management, and industry representatives. The seminar sessions were run to promote the cross-fertilisation of these disciplines and the conference structure lead to many interesting presentations as well just as many interesting conversations over a cup of coffee. I was honoured to be able to present my paper from the work I had completed with Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sports Engineering Research on Auxetic Foams for Snowsport Safety Applications.

As well as traditional seminar sessions the location of the conference allowed conference delegates to get hands-on including an on-snow in a morning of field workshop, I got the chance to try my hand at alpine touring as well as disability sit skiing.

The conference was full of great social occasions too highlights including traditional performances from local choirs and dance groups, sampling mountain food from the area, a picture perfect day skiing at Cortina d’Ampezzo and the final conference banquet.

My sincere gratitude is extended to Professor Nicola Petrone, his team from the University of Padova, and the ISSS board for their excellent organisation of both the congress and the winter school- what a thoroughly unique experience! I look forward to reuniting with everyone at the 22nd congress to be held 10th to 16th of April 2017 in Innsbruck.

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