SOLIDWORKS design helps GB’s World Para-athletics Championship team

How British Engineers created the world's first indoor wheelchair trainer
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How British Engineers created the world's first indoor wheelchair trainer

As we gear up for the World Para-Athletics Championships in London this month, para-athletes have had their training boosted thanks to some advanced engineering knowhow from SOLIDWORKS’ customer BAE Systems.

Since 2008, BAE scientists and engineers have been working with UK Sport to combine raw athletic power and ability with mechanical, structural and simulation design technology to help British Athletes reach the podium.

To help prepare for the 2017 World Para-athletics Championships this month, BAE Systems created the UK’s first computerised indoor trainer for racing wheelchairs.

Originally conceptualised using SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, the WATT system (Wheelchair Athlete Test and Training 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 WATT system 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 ground-breaking advancement in wheelchair racing. There are a number of problems that the GB Team faces when training in poor weather conditions, but with this new system, they will be able to complete whatever training they need and access courses from all over the world, from wherever they are based.”

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 new advanced composite wheel is three times stiffer than previous designs and its rigidity reduces a force known as a ‘toe-in’ – where the wheel bends inwards. This reduces friction and improves 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 in which to race. BAE found that by just changing Shelly’s position by 10 degrees forward, she would be able to get an increase in speed of 20 per cent.

Shelly said: “Paralympic sport is growing year-on-year in strength. 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.”

This summer, 49 of Great Britain’s best para-athletes, including 13 wheelchair racers, will compete at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 14-23 July - World ParaAthletics Championship

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