Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) news release:
How to build a better lacrosse stick? A team of Lethbridge College Engineering Design and Drafting Technology students has found the answer. By improving the design of the primary equipment for the oldest organized sport in North America, they’ve received recognition from the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) as one of the provincial finalists for the 2020 Capstone Project of the Year Award.
Known as the national summer sport of Canada and having been a part of this country since confederation, lacrosse has increased in popularity over the years. In turn, so has demand for a competitive edge in equipment design. Two members of the Lethbridge College team, consisting of Ralph Dabao, Nathan McMurray and Austin Bruder, are also lacrosse players and had personally experienced the frustration of breaking their aluminum sticks after being hit hard by an opponent.
Lacrosse sticks may be composed of steel (strong, heavy and inexpensive), aluminum (good strength, lightweight, optimally priced), carbon fibre (breaks easily, lightweight, expensive), and other materials, such as wood and titanium. Box lacrosse (indoor lacrosse) is a contact sport where a slight bend in the stick due to sudden impact results in not being able to use it exactly as intended.
“Badminton and tennis rackets also break but not as frequently as box lacrosse and hockey sticks,” said Dabao. “For a lacrosse player, choosing the right equipment is as important a decision as it is with any other sport, and can prove costly. Unfortunately, a lightweight, expensive stick is as useless as a cheap, heavy stick once it's damaged.”
The team’s goal was to use generative design to develop a high-strength-to-low-weight ratio aluminum stick. They designed, tested, and 3D-printed a lacrosse shaft. Because there are different kinds of aluminum alloy on the market, they focused on three in particular: 2024-T4; 6061-T6; and 7075-T6. They chose these because they are closest to the alloys used by major manufacturing companies.
The team began by breaking existing aluminum lacrosse sticks, using the three-point flexural (the action of bending or curving, or the condition of being bent or curved) stress to determine maximum loads. They entered their results into the Autodesk Fusion 360 platform, which allowed them to model and design a new shaft based on real-world data.
They shaved material on the inside walls of the stick without compromising the structural integrity and outside shape for play. By reducing the thickness of the outside walls and adding intermediate supports throughout the interior of the shaft, they were able to increase the strength with only a marginal addition of weight. Further testing with other alloys and better generative algorithms would enhance the strength-to-weight ratio beyond normal calculations.
“Inspired by a love of sport and driven by a practical need, the Lethbridge College team has earned a place in the big leagues with its innovation of lacrosse stick 2.0,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “It’s a hands-on representation of the intelligence, ingenuity and innovation we associate with Capstone Award finalists and winners.”
In 2019, Lethbridge College students Tyson Baldrey, Allan Johnston and Randy Holmberg won the ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award for their environmentally conscious exploration of bamboo as a viable alternative to steel reinforcement (rebar) in concrete in construction projects.
About the Capstone Project of the Year Award finalist team
Ralph Dabao, certified engineering technologist (CET)
While growing up in Manila, Philippines, Dabao always knew he would end up in the engineering field. As a boy, he would visit his father, an electrical engineer, at his office and watch him using AutoCAD to design electrical systems for buildings. After moving to Canada in 2017 and working as a designer/drafter, he wanted to ensure his skills were up-to-date and completed the Engineering Design and Drafting Technology program at Lethbridge College. When not going the distance in his career, he takes part in endurance sports, such as triathlons, swimming, cycling, and running.
Nathan McMurray, technologist-in-training (TT)
Born, raised and currently working in Lethbridge, Nathan McMurray chose Lethbridge College’s Engineering Design and Drafting Technology program because of the level of detail and technical skills involved. In his free time, he enjoys ﬂy-ﬁshing, hiking and bouldering.
Austin Bruder, technologist-in-training (TT)
A native of Pincher Creek, Austin Bruder is a proud graduate of Lethbridge College’s Engineering Design and Drafting Technology program, which he chose because he finds the design process fascinating. When not working, he participates in horseback riding, dancing and canoeing.
In addition to handing out the Capstone Project of the Year Award to deserving engineering technology students, the ASET Education and Scholarship Foundation provides scholarships, bursaries and educational funding to enhance and support the education of students pursuing engineering technology studies.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 16,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.