Engineers are teaming up with the nation’s best medal winning hopes as BAE Systems and UK Sport renew a partnership that helped Team GB to success at London 2012 and Vancouver 2010.
The UK defence company and the body that funds Britain’s elite athletes have entered into an agreement worth £800,000 over four years that will see engineers and athletes working together to ensure medal success at the Sochi winter Olympics in 2014 and summer Olympics in Brazil 2016.
Liz Nicholl, CEO UK Sport said, ‘Our goal is to win more medals in both Olympic and Paralympic games in [Brazil] 2016. If we did that we’d do what no host nation has ever done before in recent history at the very next games. It’s a hugely ambitious goal and its right to be ambitious… We have created a nation that believes it can win, so we want to build on that and maintain this momentum.’
Two advances designed to give British athletes the winning edge were announced yesterday with a new set of wheels for wheelchair athletes and a proposed simulator for the British Taekwondo team.
The new composite racing wheel – developed at BAE Systems’ R&D centre in Bristol in collaboration with Draft, specialists in active user and sports wheelchairs, and Angle Consultancy, high performance sports specialists – is three times stiffer than previous designs.
According to BAE Systems, this rigidity reduces a force referred to as toe-in – where the wheel bends inwards – caused by wheelchair athletes’ punching motion on their push stroke. The increased lateral stiffness means the new wheels no longer bend inwards, reducing friction between them and the track, thereby improving speed.
Kelvin Davies, project lead for the Technology Partnership, said the new wheel gives athletes up to 20 per cent more acceleration.
‘I’m looking forward to giving them [wheels] some time and a chance for me to enhance my performance,’ said Shelly Woods, a silver medallist in the T54 marathon at London 2012.
Davies added that the proposed taekwondo simulator presents an economical and risk-free training environment for athletes involved in a martial art that often requires combatants to wear body armour and protective headwear.
‘What we think we’ll end up with is a part-task simulator, we won’t simulate the whole taekwondo bout,’ he said. ‘For example, if we wanted to improve defensive tactics we might look at reaction times and try to improve the athlete’s ability to predict and react to an incoming blow.’
Simon Howison, BAE Systems engineering projects director said the partnership acts as a showcase for the possibilities presented by engineering ‘and the difference it makes to the world’.
‘Hopefully, connecting engineering to sports success will inspire some young people to think about a career as an engineer,’ he said, cautioning that the UK needs 1.25 million engineers by 2020.
He said, ‘We need a 100,000 STEM graduates a year just to maintain the status quo.
‘At the moment BAE Systems is ok for engineers but companies in the supply chain are struggling.
‘As the economy grows the situation will get worse and there is a danger that the economy will be limited by the lack of engineers.’
In a separate development the British Paralympic Association (BPA) announced on August 28, 2013 that it has signed food manufacturer Mondelēz International as a commercial partner through to March 2017.
The new deal sees Mondelēz International join sponsors that include BT and Sainsbury’s as an official partner of the BPA.