UC students design miniature triathlon tracking device

University of Canterbury (UC) researchers have designed a new miniature electronic triathlon tracking device to be worn by athletes and broadcast live to smartphone apps.

UC mechanical engineer Dr Mark Staiger and his research team worked with 2XU, a leading New Zealand sports clothing company which is working on incorporating pockets into its commercial designs to facilitate new real time tracking technology.

The data we gathered from the first athlete trials provided information on desired shape and weight for the second generation designs. These designs were trialled by four athletes over a long distance,’’ Dr Staiger said.

The design was refined to meet specifications. Consideration was made for waterproofing, injection moulding and impact strength.

Our initial designs for short distance athlete trials were widely varied in shape. This enabled the athletes to quickly identify their favourite designs.

We assessed current triathlon and GPS technology for compatibility with our tracking device. We surveyed 1500 New Zealand triathletes. The results found that there was significant interest in the product within the triathlon community.

A key area of interest was the ability to monitor competitors’ GPS location throughout an event.

Concept designs were tested by nine male and female athletes. This provided information as to what size, weight and position most suited the athletes,’’ Dr Staiger said.

The aim of the UC research project was to produce a system which allowed spectators to monitor a triathlon race using a smartphone application. Triathlons can be exciting to watch on television, with vehicles following lead competitors and broadcasting progress throughout the event to the viewer.

But competitors behind the leaders, who still might be making interesting progress, are often left out of coverage and awareness. Triathlon New Zealand's aim is to be able to update spectators on the progress of all competitors throughout a race using this new technology.

Four of Dr Staiger’s research team Michael Southon, Claire Bewley, Michael Spedding and Dan Aiken will graduate from UC this week along with a total of 1158 students graduating in person and another 80 graduating in absentia.

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