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Clark School Professor Develops Game-Changing Baseball Innovation

When it comes to baseball, disputes over calls at the home plate occur quite often. The umpire calls a strike, the batter says it’s a ball, and an all out battle ensues. So what if there was a way to change the guessing game at home plate into an accurate call?

That's the question that real estate developer Gerald Spessard, who is also the parent of a 2006 University of Maryland graduate, asked Dr. Christopher Davis, Minta Martin Professor of Engineering in the Clark School's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Davis, whose research interests include optical systems and advanced surveillance systems, knew right away how to develop this new home plate—electronics.

Davis called on research associate John Rzasa, retired engineer Leroy Chamberlain, Jr., and aspiring optical engineer Jakob Scharmer, to join his team, and together they created an electronic home plate (EHP). The low-cost baseball home plate contains electronic and opto-electric components, and uses LED lights to detect and indicate the presence, position, and speed of a baseball passing over the plate. The EHP is unique in that not only can it detect a ball as it passes between the outer edges of the home plate but also is automatically adjusted to correspond to the knee-to-chest strike zone.

"The electronic home plate has the potential to be a game changer in baseball," said Davis. "It will also serve as a valuable training tool for pitchers and batters."

The EHP was honored at this year's University of Maryland Invention of the Year Awards, and was a runner-up in the physical science category. Since 2012, the project has received $200,000 from the university's Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program. Spessard plans to begin manufacturing the EHP this winter in Hancock, Md.


June 20, 2013


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