In preparation for this month’s World Para Athletics Championships, BAE Systems has helped created the UK’s first computerised indoor trainer for racing wheelchairs.
With 13 wheelchair racers competing around the track at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 14 – 23 July, the team will have benefitted from using the special designed Wheelchair Athlete Test and Training system (WATT) system by the UK engineering company.
Described by coaching staff as a ‘groundbreaking advancement’, the 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 set-up can then create differing levels of resistance on the wheels, helping to accurately simulate different road and course environments.
“There are a number of problems that the GB Team face when training in poor weather conditions,” said Henry White, BAE Systems’ UK sport technology partnership lead. “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.”
An NTCADCAM customer, BAE Systems used SolidWorks to first conceptualise and then design and fully engineer the frame and electrical set-up in time for the athletes to test and give their feedback.
The company also designed a revolutionary new advanced composite racing wheel, which can help Britain’s wheelchair racers improve their acceleration by up to 20 per cent, being three times stiffer than previous designs, it’s rigidity reduces a force know as a ‘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 it. They found 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.”