Wireless Data-Acquisition System for In-Flight Acceleration Measurement of a Football

The final system is intended to be capable of onboard logging of the six components of acceleration during free flight and for post-flight downloading and further processing to identify the corresponding forces and torques. Limitations on total physical mass and mass distribution, availability of suitable sensors, feasible sensor locations and electronic interfaces, achievable sampling rates and postflight data-processing requirements placed stringent constraints on the design of the overall system. The final configuration is successful in meeting these constraints and a proof-of-concept prototype measurement system, suitable for mounting within the football, is developed by interfacing PIC16F876 microcontrollers to accelerometers and electronic storage devices. Recorded data from this experimental prototype show qualitative agreement with six degree of freedom simulations. The results also show clearly the steps needed for a second-generation system.


The increasing availability of small-scale, fast-response instrumentation has contributed both to improved equipment and better training methods in several sports, such as golf. In contrast, the game of football has not seen comparable advances, in part because the flight of a football entails a complex interaction between gyroscopic and aerodynamic loads. At present, determination of the aerodynamics by wind-tunnel testing is incomplete, and there are essentially no data available from flights observed by calibrated cameras at known locations. In this work, we develop a low-cost onboard flight-data recorder to capture the free-flight dynamics for the American Football.


 Person Involved:

- Chris J. Nowak, M.S., University at Buffalo [Graduated]

- William J. Rae, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor (Emeritus), University at Buffalo



 Related Publications :
[02] Nowak, C., Krovi, V., and Rae, W., "Flight Data Recorder for an American Football", Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on the Engineering of Sport, Davis, California, September 13-16, 2004.


[01] Nowak, C. J., "Flight Data Recorder for the American Football", M.S. Project, MAE Dept, Univ. at Buffalo, Jun 2003. [PDF] [PPS]


by Automation, Robotics & Mechatronics Laboratory, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University at Buffalo
Last Updated: October 27, 2008