A surfboard gets an onboard computer

Computers are everywhere these days – even on surfboards. University of California, San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates outfitted a surfboard with a computer and accompanying sensors — one step toward a structural engineering Ph.D. student’s quest to develop the science of surfboards.

The UC San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates installed a computer and sensors on a surfboard and recorded the speed of the water flowing beneath the board. While the students surfed, the onboard computer sent water velocity information to a laptop on shore in real time…

This is part of Benjamin Thompson’s quest to discover if surfboards have an optimal flexibility – a board stiffness that makes surfing as enjoyable as possible. Thompson is a UC San Diego structural engineering Ph.D. student studying the fluid-structure interaction between surfboards and waves…

Each of the eight sensors embedded into the bottom of the board is a “bend sensor.” The faster the water beneath the board moves, with respect to the board, the more the sensors bend, explained Trevor Owen, the other surfer on the four-person mechanical engineering team…

Even though the team has finished their class project, Ferguson plans to keep working with Thompson. “This project is going to apply some science that most likely [board] shapers understand pretty well…it’s going to settle the debates. It’s going to be black and white hard data to let them know for sure which ideas work, which concepts work, and why they work…”

Yes, it’s always easy to joke about Kalifornia Kulture. But, this project fits better into Geeks in Action.

Surfing is a worldwide sport, big business. Applying cyber-mechanical analysis, fluid dynamics, to construction makes all the sense in the world. Something major manufacturers should already have been doing.

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