Athlete Engineering

Athlete Engineering Logo

With the rise of wearable technology, the sports industry has introducing data scientists into teams' organizational environments, who influence the training, performance, and recovery programs of athletes.

To meet the growing demand for these specialized professionals, Mississippi State University has responded by investing in athlete engineering, a multidisciplinary research collaboration between the university's academic and athletic departments to explore human performance, processes, and analysis.

Funding and mentorship are provided by MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS), Bagley College of Engineering (BCoE), and National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC).

The mission of athlete engineering is to align researchers from all engineering disciplines, as well as kinesiology, sociology, and psychology researchers, with athletic practitioners such as strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, and nutritionists, to enhance student-athlete safety and link human factors to performance technology.

With the knowledge that athletic ability plays into a variety of fields outside of sports, MSU's research divides these areas into four distinct Human Athlete Personas:

  • Tactical Athlete: the warfighter for the military and the emergency responder
  • Industrial Athlete: the repetitive motion task worker in manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, and other service industries
  • At-Risk Athlete: the chiropractic and medical patients in rehabilitation and recovery
  • Sports Athlete: the student and professional athletes in competition

Some of the primary research areas for this team include:

  • Sensor and wearable technology design and validation
  • Technology assessment of gait and jumping mechanics
  • Unique methods for measuring ground reaction forces and pressures
  • Methodology development and testing of wearables and other human performance related solutions
  • Analysis algorithm, neural networks, and clustering technique development
  • Rehabilitation and pre-rehabilitation assessments through existing and development technologies
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Smart PPE design and implementation
CAVS Logo
NSparc Logo
BCoE Logo

Education

Aiding athletic programs, including Mississippi State's own athletic department, in making the best decisions possible regarding health and safety for the student-athlete by utilizing technology is one of the primary goals of this program. In order to accomplish this, properly training engineering students to use wearable technology and aid the athletic practitioners through the collection and organization of human performance data is a necessity. This trained engineer biproduct is one of the Athlete Engineering program's most valuable outputs, referred to as "The Athlete Engineering Student Pipeline."

Partners in the NBA, NFL, and MLB, as well as local industrial partners throughout the state of Mississippi, recognize the existence of a shortage of engineering graduates who have pre-existing, hands-on experience both collecting and interpreting human performance data in a real-world environment.

Through student funding mechanisms and mentorship provided via CAVS, MSU's Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and NSPARC, this program was designed to keep one or more graduate or undergraduate students partnered with each strength and conditioning team in MSU Athletics to:

  • run their technology
  • generate data reporting for the coaching staffs
  • lead research experiments with oversight from both research faculty and athletic practitioners

Engineers now have an educational avenue to gain the experience needed to work in the front office of professional sports teams, to pursue data analyst positions for NCAA Division 1 athletics, or to stay within the state of Mississippi and deploy wearable technology for worker health assessment. Likewise, student-athletes with an interest in STEM education have paths for pursuing a career in sports other than coaching after their days in competition have ended.

Partnerships

Athlete Engineering researchers recognize that the real work happens out in the world and rarely in the laboratory. As new wearables are designed by the Athlete Engineering research team in the lab and new vendor solutions are validated against gold standards of measurement, our expert advisory board committee and our practitioner partners ensure provide feedback ensuring that all research conducted fits an important need while always being considerate of the real customer. Practitioners from the NFL, the NBA, the MLB, multiple NCAA athletic programs, orthopedic surgeons, health and safety engineers from local and regional industries, and workforce trainer programs provide continuous feedback for every research effort that takes place between the academic researchers and the "athlete."

Athlete Engineering also recognizes that human performance isn't limited to sports. The repetitive motion workers in industrial facilities within Mississippi and neighboring states, as well as the military warfighters at home and abroad are all athletes and can therefore utilize the capabilities of the Athlete Engineering team. For this reason, research team expertise includes former industry and military human performance experts. CAVS' primary function is to serve industry and military partners and, while the sports athletes receive much of the attention from this program, everything done through Athlete Engineering is completely transferrable to everywhere that human movement and performance needs evaluation.