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    SD Mines Senior Design Team Creates Golf Simulator For Hardrockers

    RAPID CITY, S.D. – What started as a senior design project for a few students at the South Dakota School of Mines is now one of the more talked about projects within the Hardrockers Athletics Department. Four students in a senior design class worked together to build a golf simulator for their final project, and now it is a development that brings an unwillingness to part with.  

    Korey Pryer, alumnus of SD Mines and former Hardrocker golf scholar athlete, began writing the proposal for the golf simulator after having a conversation with Tiffany McCampbell, Senior Associate Athletic Director of Internal Operations. While the two were discussing golf, McCampbell mentioned that it would be nice to have a golf simulator. Pryer thought McCampbell was joking, but realizing what a great idea it was, he took the idea back to his senior design class to start pitching it for his final design project.

    After receiving news that the Athletics Dept. would sponsor the project, Pryer soon had a group to begin helping him put the plan into action. Brooke Robinson, Chris Kolegraff, and Collin DeCora are also alum who worked with Pryer on the project. With different backgrounds between Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, the students were able to come up with a design that is sure to be valuable for the men’s and women’s Hardrocker golf programs.   

    While the King Center is versatile for many sports, it is not exactly golf-friendly, which Pryer was fully aware of.

    “Our main focus was to enable the golf players to practice during the long winter months,” tells Robinson.  This was the key intention for the simulator, as it was the entire concept in the students’ Golf Simulator Design Reference Manual. “The school is having trouble keeping up with the other teams in the (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference conference), and the department feels that solving this need will greatly improve the scores of the golf team.” 

    The students even calculated how much of a difference there was between SD Mines golf players versus golfers at CSU Pueblo for reference. “When you compare the SD Mines scores to the CSU-Pueblo teams scores there is a variation of 17 strokes. This is 4.25 strokes per person. Part of this difference can be attributed to the warmer and drier climate of Pueblo… this weather advantage is what we are trying to eliminate to help close the scoring gap,” Robinson added. 

    With only $8,500 to spend, the team put together an excellent final display that passed a series of tests. A couple of the tests included making sure the system was able to capture swings up to 140 miles per hour, and that the structural design included a pinch-point safeguard. Using a radar gun for the first test, the students stuck hotdogs in the pinch-points and proved that they came out unharmed. 

    DeCora, a mechanical engineer on the project, was responsible for designing the structure. “The structure was made so that it could collapse and fit through a standard door and be moved wherever it was needed,” he clarifies. The structure is also supposed to be user-friendly and be able to be set-up in 30 minutes or less. This was another test that the students ran ---- and it too passed.

    All four students also worked together to create, from scratch, a camera tracking system. This is one of the more attractive parts of the simulator as there are no products on the market that provide playback and tracking. Their reference manual explains in more detail: “It was created for the purpose of tracking a golf club throughout a golfer’s swing. Video is presented in a GUI that provides robust video playback controls allowing the user to view their swing in slow motion detail. The tracking line will also indicate how fast the club is moving and changes from green to red to indicate the velocity of the club head.” 

    Not only is this a great tool for the existing players, but it is something that future golf recruits will definitely take interest in. “There is a lot of concern for players during the winter time and now there is this tool to help with that,” explains Pryer. 

    Pryer also explains that he has never seen a golf simulator for a school at the NCAA Div. II level and says not only is it “really cool for a school this size,” but points out also how important it is for the golf program. Golf is a sport known for the use of muscle memory, so not being able to practice in the colder months understandably permits some slack.

    Each member had several roles working with the golf simulator and they all proved to be equally important. While this was a project for class, Robinson, a Computer Engineering major, says that it was one that she really enjoyed working on. “What was so great about this project is that since our team was so small, we were able to not just focus on one side of the engineering spectrum. So, for instance, I was able to get my hands dirty on the Mechanical Engineering side of things. We were all contributing to the entirety of the project.” 

    After putting in 300 hours of work, all four members finished the project in November of 2017 and have since then graduated from SD Mines. They have left their mark on Hardrocker Territory, and it is one to surely be proud of. 

    And, for anyone wondering, all four students received an A for their design and an appreciation from the Hardrocker golf teams to help develop and grow the programs. 

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