Thursday, April 13, 2006

McDaniel Hockey Player Studies Influence of Turf

courtesy of McDaniel College

When you’re playing field hockey, like Laura Baggaley does, the team you're playing against matters just as much as what you’re playing on. The Physics major says balls go faster and farther on AstroTurf than they do on grass, and it can affect the outcome of the game.

“I can feel a difference on turf, you’re moving faster and the ball goes faster,” Baggaley says.

For her Physics Capstone project (the culminating experience with a major of a liberal arts education at McDaniel), Baggaley is analyzing grass and turf surfaces in order to calculate the difference between them. She will perform experiments tossing the ball and rolling it over the two surfaces, with the help of a softball machine to control how fast the ball goes and at what angle. Baggaley will analyze the different ground surfaces and take into consideration the forces of friction. Based on velocity and bounce, she’ll estimate how far the ball will go.

“I really wanted to do something with Physics that applied it to my life. Our faculty presents it in a way that’s real life, so we can use it,” says the veteran of four years as a Green Terror field hockey team member. The team finished the 2005 season with an 11-8 record playing on both artificial turf and grass. About two-thirds of the team’s opponents’ fields are made of artificial turf, according to McDaniel field hockey and women’s lacrosse coach Muffie Bliss.

Baggaley’s experiments could add to the heated debate about how the official team sport of Maryland is played.

“In the sports world, it’s a hot topic, especially in field hockey,” Baggaley says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other was mandated in the coming years.”

Baggaley plans to attend graduate school in the field of medical physics. She wants to work in diagnostic therapy helping plan radiation for cancer patients. And, she also hopes to teach.

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