Trimming track times for future wins
“This is more information than these athletes have ever had about the impact of what they’re doing while sliding,” Wei said. “It was a real eye-opener for them.”
To further test the athletes, suits, and headgear, Wei also developed a state-of-the-art diagnostic tool using a video-based flow measurement technique known as Digital Particle Image Velocimetry. He bounced a green pulse laser off a cylindrical lens to create a thin sheet of light, which he shined over the shoulders of athletes laying the test system. Wei then introduced theatrical fog into the front of the test bed.
Wei videotaped the fog as it was pushed around by the wind tunnel exhaust, and then used sophisticated mathematics, computer modeling, and stop-motion video to track the behavior of the swirly fog as it rolled off the bodies and heads of the athletes. This data, he said, can be used to identify vortices, pinpoint the movement of air, and hopefully identify new and more detailed methods for skeleton athletes to reduce their drag.
Meanwhile, a team of undergraduate students in the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Lab looked at different engineering techniques to help improve the skeleton sleds. They developed a data acquisition system for the sleds, which measured specific mechanical properties of the sled in real-time as the athlete guided it down the track. One component of this system is a camera that attaches to the slider’s helmet, providing athletes and coaches with a new proof-of-concept tool from which to learn.