Design, Build, and Test of a Bobsled Simulator for Olympic Athletes

[+] Author and Article Information
Mark Wacker1

 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Arthur Erdman, Marie Guion Johnson

 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Troy Nickel

Bose Systems


Presently a Guidant employee.

J. Med. Devices 1(1), 96-102 (Aug 15, 2006) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2360950 History: Received May 09, 2006; Revised August 15, 2006

In a bobsled race, the difference between a winning and losing time can be less than thousandths of a second. These fractions of seconds are typically gained or lost at the start. The athletes must be keenly aware of their time and ability to accelerate the sled. Since bobsledders will only complete three or four runs a day during training, optimization of their mechanics and timing must all be done in a few training sessions. Also, the bobsled tracks are only available for a portion of the year and there is great demand for the facility, when seasonal temperatures allow the ice to be maintained. Unlike other sports they cannot rely upon “muscle memory,” where optimization is achieved through repetition. The “Bobsled Start Simulator” was designed to give bobsledders a tool to optimize the start variables without having to train on a track. The result was a high-tech treadmill with a computerized velocity control, a bobsled handle attached to a six-degree of freedom load cell and an adjustable attachment mechanism for mounting to the load cell and bobsled handle to the treadmill. The device was tested and proved successful in improving not only pushing force but also timing for six U.S. Olympic Team athletes. The work presented in this paper was completed in 2001 for the 2002 Olympics. At the time, the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Committee asked us to not make the information public until after the 2006 Olympics.

Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Researchers demonstrating the system at the Minnesota State Fair (2001)

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Figure 2

System schematic

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Figure 3

Load cell and bobsled handle

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Figure 4

Motor controller diagram

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Figure 5

USA Mens’ 4 Man Bodsled team start data

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Figure 6

Curve fit to USA Men’s 4 Man Bodsled team start data

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Figure 7

Scaled velocity profiles

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Figure 8

Original data analysis program. The three plots show the force in the horizontal direction (top plot), the side force, and the vertical force (lower plot).

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Figure 9

Sample impulse output including the impulse at each second and the total impulse at each second and the total impulse

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Figure 10

Sample impulse output

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Figure 11

Final program display

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Figure 12

Athlete No. 1 impulse comparisons

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Figure 13

Athlete No. 2’s trial data

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Figure 14

USA men’s team comparison




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