The Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (VPMI) connects Brock University’s advanced scientific and applied research expertise, state-of-the-art equipment assets, and testing and training capabilities with industry in the bioproducts, bioscience, bioagriculture and chemical manufacturing sectors. Examples of these successful VPMI-industry partnerships are highlighted in this series. For more information, contact email@example.com
The 10,000-hour rule claims that skill mastery can be achieved after 10,000 hours of practice.
But what if there is more to the equation? In sports, improvement in skill is not only a function of the amount of practice, but also the quality of it.
Brock Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Shawn Beaudette has teamed up with sports biomechanics start-up Chalk Monkey Labs to create a 3D motion capture system that performance coaches can use to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of athletes’ techniques.
Beaudette is Director of Brock’s Spine Biomechanics and Neuromuscular Control Laboratory, which studies how skeletal movements affect physical performance and risk of injury.
3D motion capture technology is a “staple” in Beaudette’s lab. Research participants’ movements are typically gathered using reflective markers placed on various points of their bodies. Specialized cameras then record the position of these reflective markers to represent human movement.
The movement data is then analyzed to give a three-dimensional view of how the entire body moves.
“Given the high prevalence of low back pain, we do a lot of spine-based research, which involves a battery of tasks such as standing up from a sitting position or other common workplace tasks,” says Beaudette. “The motion data we capture can provide insight on injury risks, or track individual training progress.”
This 3D motion data can also help coaches, athletes and other sports professionals gain deeper insights into how individual movement strategies relate to performance outcomes.
Chalk Monkey Labs creates machine learning and AI-based technologies that enable sports performance professionals to profile how their athletes are moving during sport specific tasks so that they can provide better training and rehabilitation programs.
“Coaching right now is largely subjective, which can lead to biases when assessing athletes,” says Chalk Monkey Labs founder and Chris Vellucci, a PhD in Applied Health Sciences (Biomechanics) student working with Beaudette. “The technology we’re developing in the lab will give a clear, objective benchmark of where an athlete is with their current performance and what they need to do to improve.
“A goal of our business is to put lab-quality biomechanics data into the palm of any coach and athlete,” he says.
Traditionally, 3D motion capture is expensive and cumbersome, which has largely limited its usage to research facilities.
Motion capture technologies have evolved so that cellphone cameras are now able to yield kinematic data, information on how joints, limbs and other areas of the body move together while doing a range of activities such as sprinting, cutting or jumping.
But these technologies are limited in their usability in biomechanics according to Vellucci because they produce sparse datasets. Complex anatomical joints such as the spine and shoulder are also often over-simplified.
“A component of our work will aim at assessing these body regions with improved accuracy and reliability to capture subtle differences in performance,” he says.
Motivated by a passion for entrepreneurship and his experiences working as a strength coach and biomechanist, Vellucci founded Chalk Monkey Labs last August while completing his Master of Science in Applied Health Sciences (Kinesiology).
From October to December 2022, he completed more than 50 market research interviews supported by a successful Idea2Innovation grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and also participated in Brock LINC’s LINCubator program.
Following this, Vellucci and Beaudette applied to the Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (VPMI) for a grant to support their idea.
“The VPMI grant was a great opportunity to leverage funding and gain access to industry experts and a biomechanics research lab to validate our proposed technical frameworks,” says Vellucci.
The funding also allowed the duo to hire second-year Kinesiology student Emma Ratke as a research assistant.
“It’s a really great experience that’s taught me so many skills and has given me direction on where I want to go and what I can do outside of the classroom,” says Ratke. She received an NSERC student grant to continue her research over the summer.