Lluís M. Campos (a graduate in telecommunications with a specialization in sound and image) and Raúl Juan (a graduate in industrial engineering with a specialization in electricity), who have recently graduated from the College of Industrial Engineering of Terrassa (EUETIT), have patented an innovative scoring system for fencing.
They both practice épée fencing at the Terrassa Fencing Club and, when it came to deciding on their final thesis, they thought about how technology could help spread this minority sport, which amongst other things is constrained by the complex equipment required. In order to score and decide on a winner in a fencing bout, a wired system connects to the electricity supply and the back of the fencers’ jackets. The wires run through the inside of the jacket to the fencers’ hands, from where they can be connected to the guard of the saber, foil or épée.
It is a simple idea, but also technologically highly complex. The system designed for the thesis, which was graded as ‘Outstanding’, is made up of three devices. Two of them act as touch detectors and radio transmitters. They run on standard batteries and can be attached to the back of the fencers’ jackets, just as microphone beltpacks are, as they are the size of a small cell phone. The third device acts as a central scoring console, which is usually on a table next to the fencing strip. It has a radio receptor that is able to receive the messages sent from the fencers’ devices.
When one fencer touches the other, the detectors send a message to the central console, which then gives off sound and light signals. The idea, which may seem straightforward, involves highly complex technology because the system must detect whether an illegal part of the body has been touched—that is, points are not awarded—or whether a touch is legal and awarded points. “Our main problem in carrying the project through”, the two young engineers confessed, “was to design sensors able to distinguish between the different touch areas”.
The young graduates have also designed a communications protocol between the console and the devices that ensures that the system is reliable. It has the added advantage that it is extremely easy to use and, if users so require, it is even compatible with the traditional wired system. Furthermore, the system’s design ensures an interference-free signal, as several bouts usually go on at the same time under competition conditions.
More authentic fencing. Thinking about the reasons that led them to carry out the project, the young engineers said that “it seemed so primitive that a system with wires was still being used in fencing in the 21st century. What’s more, it goes against the grain of the sport, which requires total freedom of movement to prove one’s dexterity to one’s opponent”. As a result, they made this highly unconventional thesis proposal to their lecturers Francesc Xavier Moncunill, from the Department of Signal Theory and Communications, and Xavier Gago, from the Department of Electronic Engineering.
First competition to use the new system. Lluís Campos and Raúl Juan are particularly pleased with their work as the development of their idea can make fencing more accessible and popular, as any school gym or sports complex can use the system without the need to make huge investments to adapt their facilities. In fact, the Terrassa Fencing Club is to hold a tournament on April 23 at which the new system designed on UPC’s Terrassa Campus will be used.
The young engineers have patented the system and they reckon that it could retail at around €400. However, they are still carrying out market research to look into the best way to market it.
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