Sophia Timba | November 01, 2023

On Your Mark...

International student utilizes new makerspace to develop an affordable product to help runners optimize and track their starts.

Craig Duffy works on his pressure-reading starting blocks in the makerspace

Craig Duffy, an international student from Ireland and a member of the track team, is attending SUNY Brockport as part of a yearlong study abroad. During his first week, study abroad students were given a tour of the Village of Brockport, and one stop in particular piqued his interest.

Led by chemistry professor Robert LeSuer, IBiB (It Begins in Brockport) is a makerspace in the Hart Gallery, run by nonprofit organization Brockport Original Builds. The makerspace features equipment like laser cutters, 3D printers, an electronics station, and computers with software for 3D modeling and coding.

“BoB gave a talk and asked if anyone had an idea,” Duffy recalled. “My hand instantly shot up.”

The electronics station The electronics station


As a competitive runner, Duffy has long envisioned a device that can help him shave down his times. Every race a runner competes in begins on the exact same starting blocks. So, if he can optimize his start, he can gain an advantage.

“The faster you get, the more miniscule the things you have to fix,” Duffy said. “The blocks will never change. I can use this concept to tell me if I’m starting as efficiently as I can.”

The idea – create a starting block hooked up with a resistor device that will send data to an app that shows the speed and force with which a runner pushes off the block.

“Olympic blocks that have all that stuff do exist, but they’re extremely expensive,” LeSuer explained. “So, we’re working to make this technology more accessible.”

Typically, similar blocks cost a few thousand dollars. Duffy and LeSuer estimate the blocks they create could sell for around $200 by replacing the expensive resistors with a disposable material that could be replaced after a handful of uses.

“The sensors we’re using cost about four dollars,” said LeSuer. “The sensor would be consumable in this design, so they would be easily removable and replaceable.”

While Duffy previously had no professional or academic experience with coding and electronics, he is utilizing workshops offered by IBiB to learn as he develops.

 “I’ve never studied physics, electronics, or coding in my life… It’s definitely a learning curve, but not impossible.”
Craig Duffy

“I’m your average joe businessman,” Duffy joked. “I’ve never studied physics, electronics, or coding in my life. But I’ve done lots of workshops [at the makerspace]. It’s definitely a learning curve, but not impossible.”

Duffy is currently working on attaching the resistors to the starting blocks and calibrating them to give readable measurements. He plans to have a prototype ready to present by Scholars Day 2024.

From there, he hopes it can go to market.

“I know the industry quite well. I can see it being viable for coaches to be interested in but also with athletes,” Duffy said.

LeSuer believes Duffy’s project is a perfect example of the vision of IBiB — to allow curious minds a space to explore, learn, and create things they otherwise thought they couldn’t.

“When you break down complex projects into modular components, you see that the complexity comes from solving multiple problems at the same time,” LeSuer said. “When you break those problems down one at a time, it’s not as complex as you thought. That is the essence of what IBiB is supposed to do.”