Auburn industrial design students score with eDown—an innovative LED down marker

Published: October 31, 2016
Updated: November 01, 2016
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“It’s one of those ideas that is so good you wonder why it hadn’t been done before. It just makes sense,” said Randy Bartlett, professor of industrial design in Auburn University’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design. He’s referring to entrepreneur Hutch Hammond’s vision of a more reliable and easier-to-use digital LED down marker in football games.

Hammond, vice president of operations at Victory Game Clocks, enlisted the help of Bartlett’s third-year industrial design studio to make the LED down markers a reality. The Auburn Technical Assistance Center in Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business helped arrange the collaboration that has led to the design of eDown, an electronic down marker being used on football Saturdays in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Victory Game Clocks, located in Roanoke, Alabama, designs and manufactures electronic products for professional, college and high school sports. The company has distinguished its product line by creating innovative products, such as wireless controllers, that are designed to provide ease of operation, better reliability and more flexibility.

Hammond was looking to use this expertise to expand their product line into football down markers. Current down makers use digits that are painted on plastic or metal plates and flipped when the down changes.

Sixteen students in teams of two spent spring semester 2015 researching and designing concepts that were lighter, more flexible and much easier to use—with their result hitting the Auburn gridiron at the start of the 2016 season.

They worked with Dana Marquez, athletic equipment manager for Auburn’s Athletics Department, and Wes Fuller, member of the Auburn University “chain gang” football game officials, to understand the human factors involved in using the down markers.

“The new LED down marker was designed with user interface and experience as a key parameter,” Bartlett said. “The user can change which down is in play by simply pressing a ‘Down Selection’ switch. The push-button switch is located on the support pole and is within blind reach of the user.”

‘Blind reach’ is an industrial design phrase that refers to locating controls between the elbow and shoulder of a user.

He says the old method requires users to reach above their heads, or, in some cases, the device requires tilting to allow access to a lever that changes the numbers. Bartlett says the gear mechanisms in those down markers can have mechanical failure. The eDown LED down marker is powered with a nickel–metal hydride, or NiMH, battery assembly that holds a charge for more than eight hours. A battery level indicator is located on the LED head assembly informing the user of the remaining battery life each time the ‘down select’ switch is changed.

Bartlett goes on to explain other human factors involved in the eDown LED marker design. “The down markers must be visible for 100 yards,” he said. “They also need to be lightweight but durable. The electronics needs to be able to withstand impact—when a 300-pound football player is barreling toward you, you toss the down marker to the ground and get out of the way.”

The students developed eight viable concepts that were turned over to Victory Game Clocks. This past A-Day spring game, the first production models of the eDown markers were used in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the eDown marker is now on the market and being sold nationally.

“I just can’t say enough good things about Randy Bartlett and the young women and men who helped with this design project,” Hammond said. “The group worked so well as a team, and everyone contributed something to the final design. As a result, our company now has a product that is already setting a new standard in professional, collegiate and high school football. Thanks again to Randy and his team for a job well done!”

More information about eDown is available on the Victory Game Clocks website at http://www.VictoryGameClocks.com.

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