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Noel Perkins’ SwingTracker Technology Featured in Sports Illustrated



Although it might be surprising to some, engineering has its place in the active world of sports. Noel Perkins, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, developed the new technology system called SwingTracker and its potential caught the eye of the enthusiasts at Sports Illustrated.

Professional baseball batters do not become “world class” by default. They put in hard work like every one else, but perhaps most importantly, are able to recognize and improve upon their weaknesses. Perkins created a wireless sensor that can be attached to the base of a baseball bat.

The October 14th, 2013 edition of the magazine dedicated an article to Perkins’ SwingTracker system and its ramifications for the sport of baseball, featuring it as the second piece in a four part series offered by the magazine, which explains how select innovations have “shaken up the sports landscape.” The article is entitled “Precision Hitting.”

The device measures six different quantities, three being related to acceleration and another three related to rotation. From there, the data is sent to a computer by a wireless transceiver, where the more interactive aspect takes front stage. The SwingTracker software converts the measurements to a more comprehensive form, as it instantaneously creates a dynamic visual of the batting movement. The sensor is able to precisely measure things the eye cannot, such as the angle at which the ball is hit.

Initially, Perkins did not develop the technology for sports alone, Sports Illustrated reported. Instead, the concept was born from Perkin’s fly-fishing experiments, where he would attach sensors to the rod in order to better analyze his casting movement. Only later did he realize it could be of great use in baseball.

As for his research at the University, Perkins is the Coordinator for the Vibrations and Acoustics Lab. His research focuses primarily on vibrations, acoustics, structural dynamics, nonlinear dynamics, and wave propagation.

In the MConnex video, which describes the new technology and shows it in action, Perkins outlines the components of hitting that really matter. He says, “Reaction time, speed, and control- if you line those things up, you’re a great hitter.” Swingtracker can be used by both coaches and players to make that greatness come just a little more easily.

Faculty featured in this story