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Professor Does Heavy Lifting to Create Instant Data Crunches for Athletes

Thursday, April 27, 2017
Grant Hoffman At The Board

Creative Engineer: Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship Grant Hoffman has organized students, graduate students and faculty colleagues in the development of activity trackers that could assess the performances of athletes.

Light bulb moments can happen just about anywhere. Grant Hoffman was mowing the lawn when he began to think about activity trackers such as FitBit.

“It hit me that the data they offer are old by the time it’s looked at,” he says. “It has gotten people to exercise more, but the data alone are not that helpful.”

Hoffman is a Rose-Hulman professor of practice in entrepreneurship who is an entrepreneur himself. His fledgling company is collecting and crunching data instantly—specifically, to help track and evaluate the performance of athletes. A proprietary algorithm developed by assistant vice president for enrollment management Michael DeVasher (a former mathematics professor) will help evaluate an athlete’s current output against his or her potential. Instant data will help a coach determine whether a player has been on the field too long, whether a running back has the stamina to pull off a particular play, as well as what’s working and what’s not—perhaps what would be worth focusing on in practice tomorrow.

Wayne Padgett, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, helped establish an independent study opportunity through which two students got a deep dive into wireless data transmission and how performance trackers could be enlisted to make the concept work.

Today, entrepreneurship means a lot more than starting a business or launching a new product, Hoffman tells his students. In the past, entrepreneurs were thought of as individuals who went out on their own to create something brand new. Now, however, the creative energies and innovative approaches inherent in entrepreneurs are valued in all fields and across all industries—not just start-ups.  That’s why Rose-Hulman connects entrepreneurialism across disciplines and challenges students to think entrepreneurially in solving real-world problems.

“You have to have the knowledge and experience to back up the entrepreneurial mindset,” says Hoffman, who has guided students in developing product ideas through the European Innovation Academy and several startup enterprises. “People are getting it, they’re getting on board. They know that, without this mindset, today’s students are going to get left behind.”

Hoffman has a unique perspective on the institute’s educational experience, since he once sat in many of the same classrooms he now teaches. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rose-Hulman in 2003 and added a master’s degree in biomedical engineering a year later. He then spent 10 years working in medical device development and as innovations officer for Cleveland Clinic Innovations before returning to teach at the institute.

Hoffman developed implantable valve and stent technology, and his research continues to focus on creating device concepts for unmet clinical needs. He holds 21 U.S. and international patents.