STEM brings safety, function to gymnastics

December 16, 2016 07:04 PM

LOUDONVILLE - Gymnasts from across the Northeast are descending on Siena College this weekend for the fourth annual World Class Invitational. Before they can take the floor, there's a lot of preparation that goes into getting everything ready. That includes some science and technology.

The World Class Invitational is the second largest gymnastics meet in the state.

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For about four hours Thursday evening, volunteers and staff turned an empty space into a meet-ready location. Two floors, four beams, four sets of uneven bars and four vault tables. You're used to seeing the girls flip and twist on the floor, but you don't usually get to see what's underneath.

"Underneath it, I think there's something like 1,800 springs then there's two inches of foam on top of that and a carpet again on top of that, so by the time you stack it all up, it's almost a foot tall and there’s lots and lots underneath it to be soft, but bouncy which is kind of an interesting combination," explained Eric Quaal with World Class Gymnastics.

Springs are also used for the vault. How many they use is based on the speed and weight of the gymnast and the torque they need once they're in the air.

"The manufacturers of the board have specifications on least number of springs that’s safe and most number of springs that’s safe. The coaches are in charge of how many to use in between," noted Quaal.

When a gymnast swings on the bars, they're probably not thinking about Isaac Newton, but as he said, "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." That means when they reach the handstand position, gravity pulls them down. In order to continue the swing again, the gymnast pulls down and the bar offers an equal and opposite force on the gymnast. As for letting go for a dismount:

"You'd be amazed how much flex that bar gives them and if they can load up enough of it to use it like a sling shot, then they’re capable of propelling themselves higher in the air than they can even go just by letting go," pointed out Quaal.

When it comes to technology, we no longer need people to hold up scores. This year, Quaal has a set up with computers so the judges input the scores and they automatically show up on monitors for everyone to see.

"It’s all iPads and wireless, man. The wave of the future is here," he declared.


WNYT Staff

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