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April 10, 2003, Gazette

Engineered for greatness — The Footworker-S


If you play squash and want to improve your performance you may have a unique opportunity thanks to the research and creativity of Dr. Leonard Lye, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and engineering graduate Chris Butt. The Footworker -S is a device designed for both novice and advanced squash players to improve both movement (foot work) around the squash court and fitness. But be prepared to work up a sweat; this device is sure to challenge even the best of players.

Dr. Lye said the idea for a similar device for badminton came to him about 20 years ago. When he started playing squash just five years ago, the idea came back and so he proposed it as a Term 8 project for the electrical engineering students in the fall of 1999.

“Chris accepted the project and went to work right away programming and putting the hardware together,” said Dr. Lye. “When we had something ready to present, we took it over to Dr. David Behm in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation and asked him to take a look at it. He tried it out, made a few suggestions, and we have been refining it ever since.”

Since they began just over three years ago, the Footworker -S has changed from roughly constructed plywood to a real prototype, thanks to the help of Steve Foster of Memorial University’s Technical Services. Since then, the device has been streamlined, the electronics component has been made a lot smaller and been given a more compact design.

“We are still making some minor modifications and are always finding something that could be slightly tweaked. Having people try it helps us to make it even better,” adds Chris.

The Footworker-S is designed to help the player perform ghosting routines more effectively. For those who do not know, the purpose of ghosting routines is to encourage good movement with correct footwork in any corner of the court from the T and back to the T. The Footworker-S is placed at the front of the court. Ten lights are positioned on the device to reflect the typical positions from where a squash ball is hit. When a particular light is illuminated the player moves to that position on the court and “hits” an imaginary ball. What follows is a properly timed, according to your chosen level, pseudo-random pattern of flashing lights designed to simulate a rally.

According to Dr. Lye, there is no other device out there similar to this. Consequently, endorsements have been rolling in from those who have tried it and can attest to its effectiveness.

“The Footworker is a great new tool for coaches and a fun way for players to improve their game,” said Kathy Lundmark, level IV coach and former Canadian and World Masters Champion.

Dr. Lye and Mr. Butt have since formed their own company, Com-Adv Devices Inc. and are now working to market their product to the squash community.

“This device makes you work very hard. It challenges your footwork technique and improves your overall fitness level,” points out Dr. Lye. “We know we have a winning product. Now we just need to show everyone what it can do for them!”

For more information, please visit their Web site at www.footworker.ca.