Congratulations to Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Design Team Sith Putter, who won “Best Use of TI Wireless Technology” in the 2015 TI Design Competition. This is the sixth year in a row a Rice team has won in any category of the competition. The team is comprised of Mark Sun, Gino Liao, and Minnie Ma, all ECE students; and mechanical engineering student Kelsey Rightmer.
The interdisciplinary team built on the work of last year’s team, Jedi Putter, to create a putter that uses Bluetooth technology to provide real-time performance measurements and feedback to a golfer, using a laser to guide the golfer, and recording things like hit motion, swing action, and where the putter hits the ball.
“Our design challenge was to develop a golf putter that had an integrated system to analyze the putting stroke of our user and provide real time feedback,” Rightmer said.
“Last year’s team used a cable hooked up to a laptop to transmit and receive data. What the team was able to do this year was use TI wireless technology to get rid of the cable, which is what you want, you don’t want to have a putter with a cable hooked up to it,” said Ray Simar, ECE Professor in Practice and the advisor for the team. “What is amazing is that the technology was not even available to the previous year’s team. It’s amazing how quickly the technology changes and how quickly we can have students take advantage of it,” he continued.
Simar noted that the interdisciplinary makeup of the team was crucial to the success of the project.
“While the ELECs were building the systems, Kelsey designed the putter head and new handle, to hold the systems. Last year’s putter head was ‘mallet-style’, this year Kelsey created a blade-style head, closer to the traditional putter that people think of,” he explained.
The engineering behind the blade-style putter was difficult. Because the blade style is smaller and sleeker, it was harder to fit the electronic components, such as the new circuit board, batteries, speakers, and lasers, inside the casing. Rightmer worked around this problem by utilizing the handle of the putter in addition to the head.
“I was the mechanical on the team and was responsible for the design of the shell of the putter. The design was developed to increase the moment of inertia for performance as well as house and fasten the electrical components,” Rightmer explained.
“The new partitioning of the design put a lot of the onus on Kelsey,” Simar said. “It was critical that the team worked together to get the sizes right. Minnie tracked down board sizes, Tim and Gino designed the circuit board and knew they had to work to make a longer, narrower board or it wouldn’t fit in the handle. Mark designed a new way to power on the system. The first year’s team put switches on top of putter handle, which works fine until you take the putter and turn it over and drop it in your bag, accidentally turning it on. Mark’s idea was a mercury switch, when you turn it right side up it powers on, and when you turn it over to put it in your bag it turns off.”
“I enjoyed seeing the Sith Putter team bring together a project of such high-quality execution,” said Cathy Wicks, university program manager for Texas Instruments. “The team’s amount of data collection and calculation of real-time motion detection and tactile, visual and auditory feedback from the club was impressive. Using a TI CC2540 Bluetooth low-energy device to then seamlessly transfer system data to a phone took the device a step up from just a prototype to a true working model for golfers.”
“I think they worked together really well, the project is much more complicated than you would think it would be and I think that surprises everyone. They did a really good job of partitioning up the design work, and improved over the first year’s efforts,” Simar said.
In the coming year, the team is going to attempt to send data from a phone to a putter, to tell it what tones to play. The putter plays a metronome tone that the golfer can align their swing to, which will let the golfer predictively control how the ball will travel. Adjusting the tones, or tempo, would be needed for golfers based on something like their individual height.
They’ll also be assisting Houston’s Special Olympics Golf Team to help improve their putting skills. Simar explained that putting is not based on strength or agility, but on things like grip and balance.
“What we are going to tee up for this year is the putter design, and in particular the feedback mechanisms that are needed to train these athletes,” Simar said. “Working with athletes with a host of different abilities, with a range of heights, it will be fun to go to their practices and learn what feedback is most effective to provide them for improving their putting.”
“Rice University’s method of utilizing Professors of The Practice with industry experience to advise student design teams is unique. By working with students to scope their projects, they bring a level of wisdom and real-world knowledge to the teams," Wicks said.
“During my Rice experience I developed lifelong relationships, I was challenged to think differently, and I learned the importance of collaboration. I am currently employed as a mechanical engineer with an architecture and MEP design firm, Page Engineering,” Rightmer said.