BS, ’05, MS, ’07, Mechanical Engineering
It’s an epic road trip any way you look at it: 5,000 miles, stops in cities from Denver to New Orleans to Atlanta, 14-hour daily commutes, 12-hour work days.
Seth Kuhlman and Boise State students Ben Cooper and Jackie Forhan are driving across the United States through Aug. 9, all in the name of science and football.
They’re stopping at the stadiums of the Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Falcons and other pro teams. Once there, they’ll conduct hands-on experiments using a unique machine constructed at Boise State.
Their mission: to measure how different types of football cleats rebound and respond to artificial turf.
The research is part of an NFL-funded project to study why turf-related injuries occur, and if changes in footwear or artificial turf could result in fewer injuries for NFL players. Dr. Michelle Sabick, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, is the principal investigator on the grant.
Kuhlman designed and built the large machine that he’s now pulling in a trailer behind a Boise State van across the country. The machine is designed to simulate shoe cleat-turf interactions when a player runs forward, cuts sideways, pivots or make other moves.
At each stop on the two-week trip, Kuhlman and his student assistants will haul the machine to the playing field, set it up and run tests. The computer-garnered data will be analyzed after the team returns to Boise as the next step in the research study.
The Boise State study could be used in the future by the NFL to make changes in the design of football cleats or artificial turf to minimize the chance of injuries.
“It’s been very rewarding to be the lead engineer on a project from the design phase through building the machine and now testing on the road,” said Kuhlman, the lab manager for Boise State’s Center for Orthopedic and Biomechanics Research,Kuhlman said he was also looking forward to the opportunity to visit the big-name football stadiums he’s only seen on TV.
“It’ll be fun. Not many people get to be on the turf in an NFL stadium,” Kuhlman said.
That’s a view shared by both Cooper and Forhan. “It will be interesting to see how the stadiums compare,” said Forhan, a senior majoring in materials science and engineering.
Cooper, a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology who is pursuing a degree in exercise science and sport studies, noted that getting a chance to work on NFL fields will be “pretty exciting .”
“I think the data we collect will be very interesting and informative,” Cooper said. “Overall, the whole process has been a great learning experience,”
As they prepared to leave town, the Boise State research team said they were looking forward to a great trip. But they also allowed that driving 5,000 miles in two weeks might require a certain amount of fortitude.
“I'm least looking forward to driving that stretch of road from Denver to Tennessee,” Forhan said.
Added Cooper: “I've driven across the country three times. The allure of ‘road trips’ isn’t the same anymore. I'm a BIG fan of planes now.”
The Boise State researchers have started a blog to chronicle their road trip. http://turfbuster.blogspot.com/