Students work together with business to design a data-collecting ice hockey puck

The students are cooperating with Quuppa, that develops intelligent locating systems.

Radio science and engineering master's students participating in the Antennas workshop are working in cooperation with intelligent indoor locating services provider Quuppa to design a data-collecting antenna suitable for an ice hockey puck.

The antenna will be installed inside the puck and will make use of the Quuppa locating system, which will gather data during the game. In order for the system to calculate the location of the puck, a Bluetooth radio transmitter must be installed into the puck. This radio transmitter in turn requires an antenna, which is what the students on the course are designing.

The idea came from a stakeholder group meeting.

'I was talking with Quuppa's Chief Executive Officer, Kimmo Kalliola, about whether it would be possible to design some kind of product for their company together with the students', explains university lecturer Jari Holopainen, who teaches the Antennas workshop.

The course began in September and is being carried out in this way for the first time.

'There are no ready-prepared correct answers on this course. Instead, students are given different topics to work on. The students themselves define the problem and work together to find good solutions', Holopainen adds.

Data-collecting puck improves customer experience

Quuppa, with its team of nine employees, is a company which designs intelligent real-time locating systems for indoor spaces. Locating systems provide precise data for a variety of sports. This precision is achieved using high-quality algorithms.

Quuppa´s CEO Kimmo Kalliolla presenting the intelligent locating system.

CEO Kimmo Kalliola, who himself is a graduate from the Department Radio Science and Engineering of the School of Electrical Engineering, explained that they already have prototypes for the product in question. However, the current puck prototypes with their antennas are not ready for mass production.

'We are looking for a real solution to this problem, as our services are used a lot for sport statistics. At the moment, we are able to position sensors in the players' shoulder pads, which enables us to collect data about the game. The data would obviously be more precise and would be able to serve our customers better if it could be gathered both from the players and from the puck itself', explains Kalliola, summarising the task in hand.

'When more data is available about the game, it is possible with the help of the data-collecting puck to enrich the experience of both the players and the viewers.'

Students tackle the problem with enthusiasm

At the end of the first lecture, the students considered the task in small groups. Many good points and observations were made.

For example, the following matters were considered: How does the positioning of the antenna inside the puck affect its movement on the ice? What is the lifespan of an antenna? How long does it last out in punishing game conditions? Is it possible to replace the material around the antenna with something equivalent, which simulates the real puck material, so that the puck would behave in the best possible way?

With the pucks sponsored by Kalpa, the Finnish hockey team, the students can test which of the solutions works best. In the picture university lecturer, Jari Holopainen.

One challenging question in the search for a solution is how to get the antenna inside the puck to work properly through the surrounding rubber.  The internal positioning must also be such that it remains in position in the fast-moving puck: During a match the puck can reach speeds of over 170km/h. In addition, The small size of the puck also makes it difficult to install an antenna inside it.

The students will seek to find answers to all these questions as the course progresses. The final solutions will be presented in December in the closing seminar.

Text and photos: Annika Artimo

Also see the following:

Antennas workshop course (mycourses.aalto.fi)

Quuppa (quuppa.com)

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