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Wide World of Sports Engineering Comes to Campus

Baseball Lab's Patrick Drane Chairs International Conference

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Patrick Drane is chair of the 2012 International Sports Engineering Conference, to be held July 9–13 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center in downtown Lowell.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

For the past three years, nearly all of Patrick Drane’s waking hours have been spent thinking about sports. Sports engineering, to be precise.

“My whole world has been revolving around the International Sports Engineering Conference, which will be held at UMass Lowell this July, just two weeks before the opening of the Summer Olympics,” says Drane.

The 33-year-old assistant director of UMass Lowell’s Baseball Research Center (BRC) is chairing this year’s conference, which has been presented biennially by the U.K.-based International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA) since 1996.

“More than 250 academic researchers, sports engineers and equipment manufacturers from the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries are set to converge on campus this summer,” says Drane.   

He says his biggest challenge in organizing a meeting of this size and scope was publishing the 146 technical papers submitted by more than 350 authors from 20 countries in a peer-reviewed conference proceeding.

“Planning and coordinating the logistical and administrative details of the conference is nothing compared to compiling, reviewing and editing all the papers and publishing them in a 900-plus-page hardbound book,” he says. “So far, my inbox has more than 12,000 e-mails from the authors, speakers, exhibitors and the media this year alone!”

It took Drane, BRC Director James Sherwood and their team of students eight months to complete the editorial process, much more time-consuming than what they had anticipated. 

“Planning my wedding last year was a lot easier than planning for the conference,” Drane says with a smile. “My wife, Crystal, who is also a UMass Lowell alumna, has been very supportive of my efforts.”

First Time on the East Coast

Drane says this marks only the second time in the ISEA’s 16-year history that the conference will be held in the United States, the first in New England. The last time it occurred was in 2004, at the University of California, Davis.

“In this Olympic year, engineering and technology will be at center stage this summer, beginning with this conference, where researchers will share the results of their most recent research among their peers,” says ISEA President Kim Blair. “The conference is the world’s largest forum for the sharing of research and insights into the science and engineering in sports.” 

UMass Lowell was selected as this year’s host site through a competitive process by the ISEA because of the University’s pioneering work in sports engineering and education, especially the efforts by the Baseball Research Center. The center studies bat and ball performance and durability for Major League Baseball and many other leagues. 

“We are very excited to be hosting this great group of experts and researchers in Lowell,” says Drane. “Having personally presented papers at the past five sports engineering conferences in places like Kyoto, Munich and Vienna, it is great to be able to showcase UMass Lowell and count us among the leaders in the global field of sports engineering.”

Attendees will sit in on sessions on improved equipment performance and durability, regulation, new product innovation, equipment safety and comfort, sports engineering education and issues faced by physically challenged athletes. Work by engineers in the fields of aerodynamics, biomechanics, measurement, injury prevention, motion analysis and more will also be presented. The ISEA will publish the conference’s findings at For more about the conference, visit

“Through the conference, our goal is to expand and/or build new academic–industry research partnerships, develop sports engineering subjects into existing curriculum and conduct research that would benefit athletes through improved materials and design technology and better understanding of the science of sports,” says Drane.

Drane earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from UMass Lowell in 2000 and 2003, respectively. He has been working with Sherwood in the Baseball Research Center since the lab’s inception in 1999.

From the Conference ....