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AWRC laboratories

Design engineering at AWRC

The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre building is the centrepiece of Sheffield’s Olympic Legacy Park and is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through innovations that help people move. 

The building is the most advanced research and development centre for physical activity in the world, providing state-of-the-art, fully instrumented indoor and outdoor laboratories and a team of over 70 researchers delivering collaborative projects. You can view a virtual tour of AWRC's world-leading facilities on the AWRC's dedicated website.

The AWRC’s mission is to prevent and treat chronic disease through co-designed research into physical activity and the facilities provide us with the ideal environment to build on our existing research and create knowledge that will benefit our research partners. 

Applied computing and digital technologies

Our research expertise in applied computing supports the development of systems for use in elite sports. We work with many national teams through the English Institute of Sport to provide bespoke technology solutions. Our methods involve video and data capture, databases, image processing, sensor technologies, machine learning, data mining and mobile apps. 

Our research provides users with appropriate feedback to change behaviour and identifies key performance indicators to inform strategy. In this laboratory, we have replications of our systems (touchscreens, cameras, etc.) that are deployed in elite training facilities across the country. This allows us to both continually innovate and improve these systems in a laboratory environment before the analysis techniques are rolled out to the real world. We develop and deploy novel camera calibration techniques and this room has all the required apparatus to facilitate this research. 

We have local high-performance computing (HPC) resources that allow our researchers to develop deep learning techniques. A typical example of this work is the automated extraction of performance data from video footage of football players. We also have access to expandable Microsoft Azure HPC resources when we need to scale up our research.

Design engineering

Our design engineering space focuses on developing a better understanding of sports, medical and physical activity equipment and environments. Using fundamental physics, experiments and modelling techniques, we optimise equipment and environments for performance, safety and increased participation. We utilise user centred design to push the boundaries of innovation of equipment, develop prototypes to test our ideas and validate our interventions using advanced measurement systems and analyse.


Our research concerns the measurement and assessment of human body shape. We have expertise in the use of traditional methods of human body measurement (anthropometrics) and we are also pioneering novel applications of 3D imaging technology. Our 3D imaging technology captures the body’s external geometry – rich data containing vital information regarding the state of health of an individual. 

We have a number of commercial 3D imaging systems and we have technical expertise which allows us to develop our own systems and analysis techniques. Our main research driver is the inadequacy of current practice with regards to human measurement. Measures such as BMI have known flaws that incorrectly identify risk in some individuals while missing risk in others. 

Our long-term research aim is to develop technology and techniques that improve our current methods of population-level health assessment. In the future, we want to be able to better identify healthy and unhealthy body shapes that account for the wide range of individual difference.

Movement analysis at AWRC

Movement analysis

The movement analysis laboratory is a unique space that houses a wide range of compatible research equipment. It is a 500 m2, 7.5 m high room and has floor line markings which define the playing space for 8 different sports. It will be the focus for our biomechanics research which will utilise the 26 camera Qualisys motion capture system and 6 AMTI force plates. 

The motion capture system and the force plates are synchronised and can be used in multiple configurations as required. This allows multiple step and two-foot analysis to be conducted, and also reduces the restraints which are placed on the participant when only a single or double plate configuration is used. 

The laboratory space can be split into zones to allow multiple simultaneous use and these zones can be protected/screened using safety nets. A dedicated scissor lift truck is on standby for use by trained personnel to reconfigure the cameras as required. 

Physiology and human performance

This lab enables us to perform physiological assessments on a high-speed treadmill and high precision cycle ergometer using a range of gas analysis systems. We also have the equipment to assess lung function, cardiac function and record metabolic and hemodynamic parameters.

Furthermore, we can measure body composition and bone density, and this testing can be used to conjunction with other equipment in the building such as the human morphology scanning system to provide unique research opportunities.

Wearable sensor development

Body-worn sensors, also known as wearable technology, are a recent development in consumer electronics that are transforming our knowledge of health, sport and physical activity. Widely used consumer examples include Fitbits, heart-rate monitors and GPS watches. 

This laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art electronics test and production equipment, allowing the design, manufacture and testing of novel sensors, as well as the characterisation of existing devices. The space will also facilitate the development of advanced laboratory-based equipment, to support the other laboratory spaces within the AWRC. 

Further laboratories 

We have a number of dedicated laboratories for small-scale experimental analysis and workbench prototyping and development. These can be used for development and testing in a closed environment ensuring full customer confidentiality. 

These flexible laboratories also provide a space for our PhD and MSc students to conduct research work, and house specialist equipment, including our in-house non-contact laser scanning facility and a fully instrumented drop rig.

Get in touch

Contact SPARC to discuss facilities, partnerships, doctoral research and more

Contact us
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