Students create high-tech baseball for pitch analysis -
Meeting between Rice students and coach leads to sensor-covered ball
That was certainly the case for Team Strikeout, five undergraduate engineering students who were never much into America's pastime until they set out to create a high-tech ball that could help coaches analyze how a pitcher's grip affects performance.
The team's Pitch Pressure Analysis and Logging System (Pitch PALS) has the same weight and feel of a regular baseball, but it's covered with force sensors and filled with electronics.
When a pitcher throws the ball, it records the exact location of the fingers and the precise amount of force each finger exerts throughout the pitcher's windup and delivery. The force information is presented on a computer screen alongside a high-speed video of the throw and allows both player and coach to analyze how the grip on the ball affected the outcome of the throw.
Development of Pitch PALS began early last fall, when Rice seniors Henry Zhang, Jenny Sullivan, Ashley Herron, Sharon Du and Peter Hoagland were searching for an idea for their senior design project. Their adviser, Gary Woods, a faculty member in Rice's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, set up a meeting with Rice Owls assistant coach David Pierce.
Building the prototype took months, but the ball performed well during several rounds of tests. The team applied for a patent for their design, and Woods and the members of Team Strikeout -- all of whom are graduating this weekend -- hope another team of engineering students will modify and improve upon the design next fall.
"Right now we have a proof-of-concept, but we'd like to add Bluetooth wireless so that we can get the data from the ball without attaching a wire," Du said. "That would allow us to add a leather cover and have the feel of the seams around the baseball."
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