Wayne State University biomedical engineer brings "Sports Science" to new Fox Sports Network series airing September 30

September 24, 2007

September 24, 2007 -- Bioengineering may sound far from glamorous, yet Wayne State University researchers found themselves in the limelight when Hollywood producers from the Fox Sports Network sought their biomechanical expertise for, “Sports Science,” an 11-episode series scheduled to air on the Fox Sports Network Sept. 30, 2007.

“I think the various episodes will be appreciated by a lot of different audiences, different age groups and backgrounds,” said Wayne State biomedical engineer Cynthia Bir. “We’ve applied the tools we’ve developed in the lab to record, measure and map the speed, force and range of the human body, specifically, the athlete. That paired with the computer graphics makes for a pretty cool show.”

In one episode, Bir joins NFL linebacker Joey Porter and former NHL great Luc Robitaille on the set to measure and help illustrate the forces involved in the “hardest hits”. In another, she joins NBA guards Jason Kapono and Jordan Farmer to answer the question, “Who, or what, flies farthest, pound for pound? Formula One cars flipping in the air, or NBA athletes?”

Bir, who studies ballistics and human body impacts for her day job, won’t deny that the many weeks she spent last May through July in a converted airplane hanger was fun. But that’s the point.

“Students in America are falling further and further behind in science and math. But perhaps we can change this trend, turning them on to science by way of sports and shows like this,” Bir said. “Science can be fun. This show demonstrates ways you can take the principles of physics and human biomechanics and apply them to athletes in a very fun way.”

BASE Productions, who produced the original hit "Fight Science" in 2005, invited Bir and other experts associated with Wayne State back to Los Angeles to participate in the current show based on the role WSU bioengineers have played in the development of auto and sports safety design equipment. Wayne State researchers pioneered the field of impact biomechanics with research leading to many automotive safety design improvements, including the air bag. The graduate programs at Wayne State have the only concentrations in transportation-related trauma and forensic biomechanics in the country.

“People locally may not realize that Wayne State’s engineering sports and closed head injury research has contributed to the safety standards set for sports-related helmets and other athletic equipment in the United States,” said Francine Wunder, director of WSU corporate and public affairs. “We are thrilled Fox Sports Network is highlighting this research, not only because it affects millions of people, but because it is a powerful story for engaging youth in Detroit and across the nation to discover the exciting possibilities created through the study of science.”

The producers used high speed high definition cameras to capture the athletes in motion, and in post-production, matrix-like CGI animation, to graphically illustrate their point.

Fox Sports Network is aggressively promoting the series, which starts Sunday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m., with the first episode, “Human Flight: Who are the Highest Flyers in Sports?,” and runs for 11 straight weeks. Other episodes include, “Sudden Impact: Who Hits the Hardest in Sports?” (Episode Two), Blink of An Eye, Bet you Couldn’t Do That If you Tried, and Cheap Shots: Why There are Rules.

Wayne State University is a premier institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 11 schools and colleges to more than 33,000 students.