Engineered in Baltimore: Meet STX Engineer Kevin Kelly
As lacrosse speeds up, our designers & engineers have to stay ahead of the game to bring players the most advanced equipment. How does our R&D team come up with these innovations?
I sat down with R&D Engineer Kevin Kelly to talk about how he got started in sports development, where he got the inspiration for the launch of our latest head, the Hammer 500, and where he sees the future of lacrosse.
Kevin Kelly uses CAD programs to develop new STX products, such as the Hammer 500 head.
Nate Cundy: How did you get started in research and development?
Kevin Kelly: I’ve always been interested in how things function and how to make them better. As a kid, I would take things apart to see how they worked, often times forgetting how to put them back together. I lost a lot of fun toys that way. In middle school, I really enjoyed the LEGO mechanics class. We built small machines using LEGOs, pulleys, and motors. I enjoyed coming up with crazy designs and seeing if they would actually work. The tinkering and curiosity continued through high school and college, eventually leading me to Mechanical Engineering at STX.
Kevin's interest in building LEGO mechanics and developing new designs led to him joining STX as a Mechanical Engineer.
NC: Where did you get the inspiration for the Hammer 500 Head?
KK: I started playing lacrosse in middle school for our hometown rec team. My first year playing, Coach put me in at close D. I played my whole career at close defense. As a defender, I was always looking for a head that would maintain its shape, land hard checks, and still have the hold and accuracy to get the ball up field. Most heads would break after a month or two, just when I was getting used to them. There were constant trips to the lacrosse store (Thanks Mom); having to re-string the heads every time. For the Hammer 500, we wanted to create the ultimate defensive head; a head that will last the whole season and continue to perform as well as it did the first time you took it out.
STX dropped the Hammer 500 head for defensive players this spring. Kevin used his own lacrosse experience to inspire and design the head.
NC: How was the Hammer 500 developed to help the defensive player?
KK: We designed the Hammer 500 to be the stiffest head yet. The sidewalls and scoop are rock solid for effective slap and poke checks; designed to transfer maximum force to the attackmen’s stick. The scoop has been modified for added string protection and easier groundball pickups. The smooth, round edge glides along the turf, preventing digging and allowing for quick GB’s through traffic. The bottom and top rail cross-sections were designed to prevent warpage, ensuring the head maintains its shape. The Hammer 500 turned out to be a beast. We’re pretty excited about this head launch.
NC: Where do you see men’s lacrosse going over the next few years?
KK: I see the game speeding up a little bit. As the players’ continue to improve their ball handling and stick skills, the passes will be crisper and the shots even harder and more accurate. As a manufacturer, we are responsible for providing players with the best gear possible. The players will strive to perform their best on the field, and we will continue to push the envelope of stick design and functionality.
NC: What is your all-time favorite sports innovation?
KK: I started playing a little golf in college for fun. I’d have to say the metal driver is one of my favorite sports innovations. It has singlehandedly changed the game by increasing the distance the ball travels off the tee. All the courses have become much longer, making the game more exciting. It’s pretty cool every once in a while when I can bomb it down the fairway as far as the pros. Even though that ball usually ends up in the woods.
Meet more of the STX R&D team at http://blog.stx.com/play-huge/meet-stx-rd-designer-austin-brown.