From ‘Perfect Shotz’ to ‘Crash Test Dummies:’ Students Explore the Science of Sports


Can new materials improve the road traction of a runner’s prosthetic blade foot?

This is the question the 2014 “Science of Sports” Science Fair grand prize winners from the Leominster, Mass. Boys & Girls Club set out to solve. With the guidance of Raytheon mentors, the team of students tested the traction of six sample pads for the blade using a testing device they designed and constructed. Their measured data clearly indicated that the “Reebok Thin 6080” outsole was the winner. The material gave the greatest traction, with a 19 percent dry increase over the motorcycle tire that was tested.

The 2014 Science of Sports first place team from Leominster, Mass. impressed all in attendance with their project detailing athlete-minded performance improvements to the prosthetic leg.

Leominster was one of 30 teams present on Sunday as Raytheon and the New England Patriots hosted the sixth annual Science of Sports Science Fair. Crash test dummies, prosthetic legs and catapults were on display as more than 150 middle school students from New England Boys & Girls Clubs assembled their projects at Gillette Stadium with the help of 90 Raytheon mentors. 

The Raytheon volunteers met with students on a weekly basis for five months. Each of the 30 teams presented their projects to a panel of Raytheon judges. The judges, all engineers at Raytheon, not only participated in the Fair on June 1 but served as “technical advisors” over the course of the five months, helping to teach the students about the math and science involved in sports.

The top teams presented to the final judging panel: William H. Swanson, Raytheon Chairman; Robert Kraft, New England Patriots Chairman and CEO; and Matthew Slater, special teams captain for the Patriots.

“The quality of the projects and buzz around the competition just keeps growing every year,” said Fred Mott, a Raytheon mentor for the 2014 Science Fair. “The students' enthusiasm for their projects is evident and it is great to see them step up and perform well at the final competition.”

The Crash Test Dummies from Salem, Mass. achieved a third place finish with a project detailing improvements to the design of NASCAR vehicles and racetrack walls in order to increase driver safety.

The grand prize team from Leominster, Mass. partnered closely with Fairlawn Hospital and even took a field trip to the hospital where the staff explained the mechanics of prosthetics to them. Second place went to a team from Hudson, Mass. who explored the math behind kicking a football. This club placed second last year and recently participated in the White House Science Fair. Third place went to a team from Salem, NH that explored the safety of race cars. This team was better known as “Crash Test Dummies.”

The focus and creativity from the students was on full display. A student from the fourth place team, “Perfect Shotz,” explained, “Our project is about basketball and the science behind the perfect three-point shot. There are a lot of variables in the project and human error including height, weight, arm length, etc. We developed a prototype to launch a tennis ball first, and that gave us an idea on the velocity and height we needed to throw the ball. Then we came up with the final project which was a larger scaled model. We had to make the addition of grease and foam pads at the end of the launcher in order to increase velocity and make sure our launcher did not snap upon release of the ball.” 

Each member of the top three winning teams earned a $1,000 (Grand Prize), $750 (Second Place) or $500 (Third Place) scholarship provided by Raytheon and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.



More Information

 2014 Science of Sports Patriots Today Video

Science of Sports Program

‘Science of Sports’ Science Fair Team Visits the White House