Engineers push for the podium

Britain’s World Para Athletics Championship team will have some high class engineering behind them as they embark on the medal trail at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 14-23 July.

There are 13 wheelchair athletes in the 49-strong team and they will be aided in their preparation for the event by using the world’s first indoor wheelchair trainer.

BAE has been lending its engineering knowhow to UK Sport since 2008 in a bid to optimise sports equipment and training techniques.

The Wheelchair Athlete Test and Training (WATT) system consists of an adjustable frame that holds the athlete’s wheelchair in place and two electric motor brakes, adapted from the Tacx virtual reality bike trainer, that rest against the wheels. The system, which was conceptualised using SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, can then create differing levels of resistance on the wheels, helping to accurately simulate different road and course environments.

Henry White, BAE Systems’ UK sport technology partnership lead, said: “The new WATT System is a groundbreaking advancement in wheelchair racing. There are a number of problems that the GB Team face when training in poor weather conditions, but with this new system they’ll be able to complete whatever training they need and access courses from all over the world, from wherever they are.”

BAE Systems also developed a revolutionary new racing wheel, which can help Britain’s wheelchair racers improve their acceleration by up to 20 per cent. The advanced composite wheel is three times stiffer than previous designs and its rigidity reduces ‘toe-in’ – where the wheel bends inwards – reducing friction and improving speed and acceleration.

Paralympic silver medalist Shelly Woods tested out the wheels in wind tunnels supplied by BAE Systems to find the most aerodynamic seating position to race in. The tests showed that by just changing her position by 10 degrees forward, she would be able to get an increase of 20 per cent. Shelly said: “Paralympic sport is growing year-on-year in both strength and depth and being able to make use of the best in British engineering, thanks to the partnership between BAE Systems and UK Sport, can help keep British athletes at the forefront of this fiercely competitive environment.”

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