Technology, basketball merge in ‘Project Lammers’

In his endeavor to shape Georgia Tech basketball players into their strongest, most explosive and best conditioned selves, Dan Taylor has sought to profit from his colleagues who conduct groundbreaking research in science and technology.

“A lot of schools don’t have the ability to say, ‘Well, let’s just go to the biomechanics lab,’” said Taylor, the Yellow Jackets’ strength-and-conditioning coach for men’s basketball.

That’s why last fall, Taylor did in fact venture over to said lab, known formally as the Comparative Neuromechanics Laboratory. At the same time, when he was hired by coach Josh Pastner in May 2016, among Taylor’s inherited charges was an ideal guinea pig.

Center Ben Lammers is finishing his Tech career, a reality that Taylor laments not only for the productive play that Lammers has given the Jackets but also because, as a mechanical engineering major, Lammers is fluent in the language of Tech and tech.

Not only is Lammers a star who logs a lot of playing time, providing more opportunity for data collection, but “it’s within his ability to sort of comprehend the far-reaching parts of it,” Taylor said. “It’s easier than someone who’s a freshman or doesn’t play as much or just doesn’t think of things that way.”

Lammers was Taylor’s research subject last fall on the visit to the lab, when Lammers had his gait and jumping mechanics measured with the assistance of a motion-capture suit and a treadmill that measures force.

Young-Hui Chang, a professor in Tech’s school of biological sciences who founded the lab in 2004, also ran Lammers through a gaze-tracking test. Chang is in the preliminary stages of research into intuitive physics – the idea that people (and animals) have an innate ability to predict the physical actions of the world around them.

Chang’s idea is that expert athletes have a keener understanding of, for instance, where a baseball hit into the outfield will land. As things would have it, Chang’s test, in its preliminary stages, had to do with tracking a basketball.

“While we had Ben in there, we thought we’d collect some data,” Chang said.

That was not Lammers’ first foray into a Tech laboratory. Since last summer, he has been assisting with research at the school’s Non-Destructive Evaluation Laboratory, helping test the integrity of materials through the use of ultrasonic waves and lasers. It was his first time being the one measured, however, as he was strapped into glasses outfitted with a camera that tracked his eye motion.

“It was a little creepy at first, but it was fun,” Lammers said. “I like doing all that kind of experimental stuff.”

Taylor has continued what he calls “Project Lammers” into the season. For practice and games, Taylor has Lammers and point guard Jose Alvarado wear $350 compression shorts tricked out with sensors that track the exertion of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Tech players also wear heart-rate monitors/accelerometers during practice.

“There’s a lot of technology that’s going on in all of these sports that a lot of people don’t know exists or don’t even think about,” Lammers said. “It’s just kind of interesting, especially engineer-wise.”

Among the findings both from the diagnostic test in the lab and the nerd shorts – Lammers is rather asymmetrical in strength and in joint usage, which may stem from a dislocation of his knee cap in high school.

“It’s one thing to kind of know something, but then when you actually take the numbers, it’s like, Oh, that’s not good,” Lammers said.

Chang said Lammers’ visit was the first by a Tech varsity athlete. Taylor hopes to continue a relationship with Chang’s lab to test more team members, doing so earlier in their careers so he’ll have time to develop programs to address inefficiencies.

Chang said he sees “great opportunity” for a mutually beneficial collaboration. He noted, as an example, that he has done research with amputees. Understanding how the reigning ACC defensive player of the year and his teammates locomote can provide a clearer picture of the spectrum of human movement.

“The nature of what I do really has to do with looking at extremes in behavior, whether it’s a health disorder or disability or extreme elite performance,” he said.

It is undoubtedly music to the ears of athletic director Todd Stansbury, who has sought to increase Tech’s appeal to recruits by selling the institute’s innovative bent.

And for Lammers, there’s some benefit, too. A mechanical engineer who competes in the top basketball conference in the country wearing Bluetooth-compatible shorts is bound to have a distinctive perspective on the sports technology market.

“Who knows? In 10 years I’ll have a multi-million (dollar) company,” Lammers said with a laugh.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Why Brant Mitchell loves Quez Jackson ‘to death’
Why Brant Mitchell loves Quez Jackson ‘to death’

Georgia Tech freshman linebacker Quez Jackson appeared on the preseason two-deep depth chart that was released Wednesday, just one of six freshmen to be included on the 45-player chart. At the ACC Kickoff, Tech linebacker and captain Brant Mitchell offered his endorsement of Jackson’s ability, including a significant comparison. &ldquo...
Georgia Tech adds Rod Rook-Chungong to staff
Georgia Tech adds Rod Rook-Chungong to staff

Georgia Tech has hired another former Yellow Jackets player to its staff, former defensive lineman Rod Rook-Chungong. He began work recently as a staff assistant. Rook-Chungong, who started 27 games and graduated at the end of the 2016 season, will assist the defensive coaching staff with game-plan coordination and scouting. After graduation, Rook-Chungong...
Georgia Tech depth chart released
Georgia Tech depth chart released

Georgia Tech revealed its two-deep depth chart going into the preseason in its media guide with no great surprises. A few observations: 1. Nathan Cottrell evidently made enough strides in the spring to earn a co-starting spot with Qua Searcy at one of the A-back spots alongside Clinton Lynch. Searcy has started 17 games in his three seasons at Tech...
5 questions for Georgia Tech at ACC Kickoff
5 questions for Georgia Tech at ACC Kickoff

Georgia Tech’s offseason passes a milestone Wednesday when coach Paul Johnson, quarterback TaQuon Marshall and linebacker Brant Mitchell represent the team at the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C. Here are five questions/topics that they will be addressing from assembled media. Kenny Cooper’s spring-practice foot injury left questions at the...
Maxwell Award watch list a testament to KirVonte Benson, TaQuon Marshall
Maxwell Award watch list a testament to KirVonte Benson, TaQuon Marshall

Georgia Tech B-back KirVonte Benson and quarterback TaQuon Marshall were two of 85 players named to the Maxwell Award watch list. They were named to the list on the basis of both having rushed for 1,000 yards last season – Marshall’s 1,146 yards were the most ever by a Tech quarterback – along with 927 passing yards for Marshall...
More Stories