Tomasevicz gets a jump on vertical power research, will lead tours during Senior Design Showcase




Tomasevicz gets a jump on vertical power research, will lead tours during Senior Design Showcase

Calendar Icon Mar 09, 2016      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

Curtis Tomasevicz, lecturer in electrical and computer engineering, shows a squat bar with sensors that are used to measure athletic performance in the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory in Memorial Stadium. Tomasevicz, also a graduate student in biological systems engineering, is working at NAPL while doing doctoral research into how athletes create power while jumping vertically.
Curtis Tomasevicz, lecturer in electrical and computer engineering, shows a squat bar with sensors that are used to measure athletic performance in the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory in Memorial Stadium. Tomasevicz, also a graduate student in biological systems engineering, is working at NAPL while doing doctoral research into how athletes create power while jumping vertically.
In his nearly 15 years of high-level athletics training, Curtis Tomasevicz learned much about power.

From sprinting across the field on football game days at Memorial Stadium to pushing a 463-pound sled off the start line on an icy track at the Olympics, Tomasevicz gained first-hand knowledge about what it takes to generate force on a horizontal plane.

Now, as a lecturer in the electrical and computer engineering and a doctoral student in biological systems engineering, Tomasevicz is taking off in a new direction.

Working at the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory (NAPL), Tomasevicz is doing research to understand how athletes create power when jumping vertically, hoping to find ways to help them jump more efficiently.

“From my bobsled background, power is everything. You want as much force as you can put out as quickly as possible,” Tomasevicz said. “We used a lot of these same testing techniques at the U.S. Olympic Training Center to see how powerful we were.”

But those measurements were, basically, for athletes moving forward, backward and laterally – all mostly parallel to the ground.

At NAPL, inside the recently renovated East Stadium, Tomasevicz is looking for novel, creative and safe ways to measure the performance of athletes who are required to break loose from the earth and defy gravity’s pull.

“For athletes who are running, it’s easy to just strap weights on them and measure how that affects everything,” Tomasevicz said. “But it’s not always the safest way to do things to measure an athlete jumping with weight on their back. We’re trying to see if there’s a safer way to measure power output and see where an athlete is at their best.”

Tomasevicz retired from the U.S. Bobsled Team after earning a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and returned to UNL, where he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. This time, Tomasevicz had a dual purpose – to teach a new introductory engineering course while also working on a doctorate in engineering with an emphasis on human performance.

After considering a number of ideas for his research, the idea of understanding vertical power came from his experiences at NAPL. There, Tomasevicz said, he is gaining knowledge from working with athletes from all of UNL’s sports.

"Strength and conditioning coaches are coming forward a lot of times with ideas – let’s test this, let’s test that – whether it’s a backhand tennis swing or a golf stance. Every couple of months we were coming up with another project,” Tomasevicz said.

“My Ph.D. research is mostly focused on the power output in a vertical jump and how an athlete’s technique is affected by resistance,” Tomasevicz said. “If you jump with additional weight, you obviously have to move slower. But with more resistance, where is your power peaked at? That’s what we’re trying to find.”

Tomasevicz’s doctoral work has also required a slightly unusual approach by the student and the university.

“I wanted to do this athletic and human performance research, but I wasn’t sure where it fit within the college,” Tomasevicz said. “I’m in BSE, which is renowned for its work with agriculture and microbiological things like cell DNA but not necessarily with biomechanics or sports science. I have a background in electrical, so I don’t know as much as they do about their fields.”

This interdepartmental and interdisciplinary approach, Tomasevicz said, is becoming more common within the college of engineering and the university at large.

“It’s evident in this project – biological systems engineering, mechanical engineering and probably a few other departments from the college, the psychology department is here, nutrition and athletics, too. They play a role in what I do from Memorial Stadium to Nebraska Hall,” Tomasevicz said.

“We’re kind of trusting in each other and it’s working well so far.”

As part of the College of Engineering’s Senior Design Showcase on April 22 in the East Stadium Suites, Tomasevicz will be leading tours of the NAPL facilities.