Physics and Acoustics of Baseball & Softball Bats
Daniel A. Russell, Ph.D.
Graduate Program in Acoustics
The Pennsylvania State University

The contents of this page are ©2003-2011 Daniel A. Russell

Today is The contents of this page were last modified on September 13, 2009

Science Projects about Baseball Bats

Quite often I receive emails from young students (or their parents) who are doing science projects on baseball bats. Some students are writing to ask for help, or to ask for guidance in designing their experiment. The most enjoyable emails have been from students who have written to tell me about the success of their project accompanied by photos of themselves and their project. I've enjoyed hearing from these kids so much that I wanted to share their comments and photos with the rest of you. If you or your kids are doing a science project involving baseball, send me an email (drussell@kettering.edu) with photos and results and I'll post them here.


Received September 6, 2009
Dear Dr. Russell,

I thought you might be interested in my son's science project, to which your research and especially your excellent website contributed a great deal. My son Adam (now 13, but 11 when he started the projects) is an avid baseball player. As a Ph.D. scientist (chemistry), I got interested in the physics of bats when exposed to the manufacturers claims about what makes a ball go faster when hit. This led to many discussions with my son about why I shouldn't pay $300 for the latest carbon fiber flexible handled bat, etc.

At his school, every year each student in grades 4-8 must do a science project where they conceive of and conduct experiments relating to a testable hypothesis. Given his love of baseball, he came up with two related projects (for the 5th and 6th grades, respectively). The first was to measure the speed of various bats given a constant acceleration and try to determine which parameters led to the highest batspeed. The second was a follow up to why a lighter bat was slower than a heavier bat in the first project. The answer, of course is MOI, which my son researched and then tested. The attached pdf is a composite of 2 posters presenting his science project over two years at the school science fair.

This research has led him to have an interest in MOIs for all bats he swings, and every time we purchase a new one, we will first measure the MOI before we take the shrink wrap off. He actually finds this quite useful as he can then practice with a `old' bat of similar MOI to his favorite `hot' bat which he uses in games. Whether psychological or not, it seems to work. At any rate, I thought you might enjoy the science that your website and research helped inspire in a baseball obsessed young student.

Best regards,

Eric


Received October 8, 2008
Hello professor Russell! My son, Dylan, completed his first ever science project last year. He was in the 3rd grade, and at his school, his participation in the science fair was voluntary only. When he decided that he wanted to participate, I immediately went online to help him search for an idea to do a science project on. We found the usual science project ideas such as building a volcano, and making a battery out of a potato, building a solar system, etc. None of the projects we found appealed to Dylan.

Dylan has had a love for baseball ever since he was old enough to hold a bat and hit a ball. He's played every year since he was 6 years old. All of his coaches during the years have commented on Dylan's love for the game. His All Stars coach one year said that if all the kids had as much passion for the game as Dylan did, his job would be easier.

After weeks of searching for the perfect science project for Dylan, I found your site after I typed in "sports related science projects" into a search engine. I immediately found the "Sweet Spot" article on bats, and I knew it would be perfect for Dylan. If he didn't win, at least he would have fun doing the project.

So we spent one week going to the field and doing all sort of research on finding the sweet spot on his favorite bat. Dylan had so much fun doing the research, and it even improved his game skills. He said he couldn't wait until baseball season again so he could teach his team members all that he had learned from his project.

Dylan put together the information on his display board,and decorated it with the county baseball team colors. He was so proud the morning we walked his display board into the school for the science fair.

At the school-wide science fair, Dylan tied for 2nd place in his group. That was good enough for him to go to the county-wide science fair a few weeks later.

The night of the county-wide science fair, Dylan took his project into the science lab and set it up. He took his bat in with the sweet spot marked on it. He layed it in front of his display board. The parents had to leave so the judges could interview the participants.

When Dylan came down to the cafeteria for the announcement ceremony, he said he was really nervous during the interview, and didn't think he did all that well answering the judges' questions.

So the announcements come for the winners of Dylan's group. I had my fingers crossed that he would place 3rd, but his name wasn't called. Again, I crossed my fingers that his name would be called for 2nd place. His name was still not called. Since it was his first year particpating in a science fair, I didn't really expect Dylan to place, but as a mother, I had hoped that he would. I don't know who was more excited when they called Dylan's name as the 1st place winner; me or Dylan. We both jumped up out of our seats. Dylan ran up on stage to accept his ribbon while his father, sister, and myself stood up applauding loudly at Dylan's accomplishments. If he had been a grade higher, he would have qualified for going to the regional science fair.

As we went to pick up his project in the science lab, the judges were still on hand. Immediately, they call came up to me and praised Dylan on his hard work. They said that Dylan really knew what he was talking about, and his love for the game showed on his project board, and during his interview. They said had he been able to go to regional, they thought he had a really great chance at going to state, and maybe even further.

Dylan was very excited about everything, the project, his victory, and learning and improving in a game that he loves with all of his heart. So thank you, Professor Russell, for making Dylan's first year in a science fair so pleasurable for him.

It's almost time to think about a project for this year (he's required to do one this year), and I'm afraid we won't be able to find a project that will top that one.

I've attached a couple of pictures for you to see.

Thanks again for all your research, and for teaching Dylan that sports are all a part of science.

Sincerely, Sue Hale


Received October, 2007

     


Received October, 2006

My name is Cameron Wallace and I'm in 6th grade at Pacific Union School. Last year I did a Science Fair Project about where baseball bats sting and where they don't. My experiment was based on your research. With this e-mail I'm including several pictures from my Back Board. The project won 1st place at the Humboldt County Science Fair.

I got this idea one night when I was hitting some balls with my dad and a few of the hits stung. I didn't have a Science Fair Project yet that year so I thought why not do that one. My Little League All-Star teams (9-10 and 11 year old years) has gotten 5th and 6th place in Northern California. Our towns' population is only about 15,000. This research is really interesting to me and it helps me with my baseball.

This year I would like to take my project to the next level. I would like to demonstrate the 1st and 2nd fundamental nodes by using a computer and sensor. My dad works at a High School so he can get me an accelerometer. Is that what I would need to measure the frequencies and find the sweet spot of a baseball bat? I hope you can help me to understand how I can measure vibrations in a bat more accurately than last year.


Received May 20, 2005

Hello Professor Russell:

I just wanted to introduce myself and explain how you have just had a profound impact on my 10-year old boy (and me for that matter) and to reinforce for you just how important your work is, as you change the light upon which the rest of us see things.

My son is in the 5th Grade at Huber Street Elementary School in Secaucus, New Jersey. He recently had his 5th Grade Science Fair project and having just recently moved him from a failing local Catholic school, this was the first Science Fair he ever experienced.

In choosing a subject, I wanted to select a topic that would be very scientific, but at the same time, I wanted it to be tangible and something that would captivate his interest. Being an ex-athlete who had pro-tryouts in another life, as well as an Engineer and graduate from Lehigh University (which also seems like in another life), baseball and engineering sought-of go hand-in-hand in our household. So what better subject to chose than baseball.

The name of Anthony's projects was, "Bats: Aluminum versus Wood". As we got involved in the subject, I began to help him research the matter over the internet and that was when we came across your studies on the subject. It was at that point, I became a kid myself. I cannot tell you how much WE learned and how interesting and significant your work is. Although the science is complex and at times, it became a little too intense, there was so much information you provided that was clear and straight forward enough for my boy to really understand, grasp and retain.

Well...long story short, he won 1st Place in his Grade (5th) and I have herein provided a few pictures for you to see. Along with Professors Joseph Crisco and Alan Nathan, who's research and reports on the subject were very good as well, my son placed your picture and credits, as you now rank up there with Clemens, Jeter, Arod & Pudge as baseball stars names he knows very much about. And as a father, former Board of Education Trustee, engineer, ball-player and fan...I just had to write you and thank you for all your contributions.

Sincerely,
Anthony


Received December 7, 2004

My name is Jonathan and I am in the 5th grade at Mary C. Howse Elementary School in West Chester, PA. My friend Luke and I are doing a science fair project to find the sweet spot on my little league bat (Easton Stealth 31" 20oz). My dad and I found your research on the web while we were searching for ideas.

We want to thank you for providing us with some ideas on how to build and test my bat. Attached are some photos of our device and on my friend Luke and I during testing. My dad helped me build and design the "device" by using 2x4's, a heavy spring and a lazy susan so we could swing the bat at a consistent speed.

We tested hitting the ball at points along the barrel every inch from the end for a total of 12 inches. We did 3 trials at each spot. We found the ball was hit the farthest at a point 4 inches in from the end for and average distance of 605". We plotted the data on a bar graph and there was an increase from 505" at 1 inch from the end of the barrel up to 4 inches in and then there was a steady decrease down to 240" at 12 inches in from the end.

In our school science fair we tied for first and advanced to the county fair. Our project was one out of 46 team projects entered. We had a good time there but unfortunately we did not place in our category.

Again thank you for giving me some inspiration for my project!


  

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