It’s many a football fan’s dream to tread the hallowed turf at Old Trafford, home ground of Manchester United. Griffith University student Jonathan Shepherd has lived that dream.
However, Jonathan wasn’t there in the name of football, but science.
The experience was all part of Jonathan’s journey towards becoming a sports engineer, one enabled by Griffith University and which began about as far away from a meticulously manicured English football pitch as one might imagine.
Five years ago, Jonathan was enjoying the powdery slopes of the Victorian ski fields when he asked himself a simple question: who has the job of designing, testing and engineering snow skis?
Consulting Google, he found a video introduction by Griffith’s Associate Professor Daniel James and soon after decided to relocate to South-East Queensland and pursue a degree in Sports and Biomedical Engineering.
“The undergraduate path was a journey in itself,” says Jonathan. “Lessons in the classroom were invaluable and there was added learning from the people around me and the social and professional networks I joined.”
Now in the final year of his undergraduate degree, Jonathan has become part of the team at the highly reputed Sports and Biomedical Engineering Laboratory (SABEL Labs) based at Nathan. The facility grew out of Griffith’s Centre for Wireless Monitoring and Applications and, while contained within the School of Engineering, it has partners in Applied Psychology, Biomechanics and Business.
As a member of the Queensland Sports Technology Cluster, SABEL Labs also reaches into the local and international community and is known for applied research and development within the elite sports and consumer sporting market.
“As well as hands-on experience with inertial sensors, motion capture systems, programming and product assembly, I gathered great insight into sports research,” says Jonathan, who is undertaking the final project of his undergraduate degree by completing Griffith’s Industry Affiliates Program (IAP), an industry-based, work-integrated research initiative.
The program has taken Jonathan to the Centre for Sports Engineering (CSER ) at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, where he is conducting a sport-based impact protection study into auxetic materials.
A classification of materials with a negative Poisson’s ratio – named for French physicist Simeon Poisson (1781-1840) – when a force is applied longitudinally, auxetic materials expand transversely.
Auxetic materials are being used across a range of industries, including biomedical, aerospace, automotive, military, chemical engineering, construction, fashion, energy and, most fittingly for Jonathan, sport.
“So far I’ve created auxetic materials, accomplished some preliminary testing and data collection, met with potential external investors and my project work has even been filmed for a program on the BBC,” he says.
“I’ve also been busy with other CSER activities, including biomechanics, inertial sensing, materials testing, 3D body scanning and some work at the Great North CityGames 2014.”
And, of course, he made the trip to Old Trafford to undertake goal-line testing.
“Coming to Griffith was a pivotal move for me. I’m really looking forward to the rest of my research visit here at CSER and then eventually stepping out into a career as a sports engineer,” he says.