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NEWS
Surfboard Outfitted With Computer
August 26, 2010

For their senior design project, four undergraduates from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) Jacobs School of Engineering, along with project sponsor, Benjamin Thompson, structural engineering Ph.D. student, installed a computer and sensors on a surfboard and recorded the speed of the water flowing beneath the board. While the students surfed, the onboard computer sent water velocity information to a laptop on shore in real time.

The wired surfboard was outfitted with eight sensors and an onboard-computer or “microcontroller.” The students dug trenches into the board’s foam and ran wires connecting the sensors to the onboard computer. From this computer, the data travels via a wireless channel to a laptop on land – in this case, a beach in Del Mar, Calif. The onboard computer also saves the data on a memory card.

Surfboard flex refers to the temporary shape changes that surfboards are thought to undergo. While many surfers say flex makes their boards feel springy in the water, it has not been scientifically measured. Mr. Thompson hopes to scientifically document surfboard flex. Then he wants to determine if there is an amount of flexibility that enhances the performance and feel of a surfboard, and if this optimal flexibility depends on other factors such as surfer experience or wave conditions.


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