What happens when you combine Ultimate with a bunch of engineering students? The Aero Ultimate SkyLight. It should come as no surprise that Ultimate attracts some of the most innovative, intelligent and attractive people on the planet. With the Aero Ultimate SkyLight, the sport can add another innovation to its belt as evidence. The SkyLight magnetically suspends a disc providing the opportunity to work on hops and test your ability. Skyd has been following the development of this product and caught up with its inventors to find out more.
Who are you? What is your background in Ultimate?
Ken Kaminski: I am the Founder and Product Engineer of Aero Ultimate. I have been playing Ultimate for about 5 or 6 years. I started out playing pick-up in high school then ended up leading my high school club to compete with other schools in the area. That got me ready to form my own team, Kettnetic Thunder, when attending Kettering University my freshman year for a degree in Mechanical Engineering. We actually officially achieved team status this past Thursday the 18th in just over a year and a half, and there was a lot of work involved with that. We get huge support on campus and it’s awesome to see our program growing from the hard work myself and other captains put in. If you want to meet us you can come to our second annual college tournament this October! I am also a USA Ultimate Level 1 certified coach…as soon as I turn 21!
Mark Worsfold: I am the Marketing and Communications Manager for Aero Ultimate. I learned of ultimate through my older brother Tom Worsfold, he was a captain at Michigan State. I got to see him and the Couch play at nationals in ‘06 and take a 9th place finish, from that point on I knew I what I was going to spend my time doing at college. I joined the team at Western Michigan one year later and the following summer after that I played with Big Ass Truck out of Ann Arbor. When I came back as a sophomore I took over as team captain. I spent last summer out in Seattle, WA as a summer intern with Five Ultimate, and this summer I play for the elite mixed team Overhaul out of Ann Arbor. I also have one more year with Western Michigan.
Ken: The original SkyLight was just something I created for my team as seen in this video. It was nothing near the quality today’s SkyLight is, but I wanted to start taking Ultimate in a new direction, one that was more involved with the development of the sport. I can just remember sitting in my Thermodynamics class one time daydreaming about Ultimate and starting to think of training and education products. I came up with a list of about 10 that seemed like they would benefit the sport and players quite a bit if they were created. It seemed like with the management and organization experience I gained from creating my college team, and the way I was geared as a deep thinker and engineer, an Ultimate Engineering and Innovation company was what I was built to do. I remember posting my announcement to start an Ultimate company as a Facebook status and then immediately being swarmed from some of my Ultimate friends wanting to help. Mark Worsfold was my top pick because I knew he had the same type of dedication I did with his experience leading Western’s team and interning at Five.
Mark: I first saw Ken’s original prototype last winter and got really excited when I saw it. I asked if he could make me one and he just told me maybe. During the start of the summer I noticed he was forming his own Ultimate company, when I found out it involved the SkyLight I had to get on board!
What technology and development went into the Sky Light? What is it composed of?
Ken: The SkyLight has come a long way since the original prototype. You’re able to set it up on any flat surface indoors or outdoors, raise it anywhere you’d like from 5 feet to 11 feet inch by inch with the built in scale, and then naturally catch the disc with a magnetic attachment and release. I spent over two months brainstorming and building the first prototype. The design did change quite a bit over time, so believe me when I say I thought of every possibility of how it could be made. I did a lot of calculations with the weight distribution to make sure it would be sturdy, the distance the disc should be suspended away from the pole, and the moment of the counter weight needed to make it perfectly balanced. I put a lot of thought in everything I do! I won’t go too much into detail about the materials, but they are high quality and durable, not just stuff you pick up from the Home Depot either.
Where do you see the Sky Light being used and why is it useful?
Ken: The SkyLight has lots of different uses and benefits, some that are still being discovered as we see new people using it in different ways. The original purpose was of course to help practice Skys. Not many players can visualize how high they can catch the disc, so seeing the disc in an isolated spot for reference is the first benefit. From there, you can practice the technique of your jump and reach. With the first prototype I made for my team, some of my players were adding 3″-5″ inches to their Sky with a few tries just by getting their technique figured out. The third main benefit is that it’s easy to reset and use over and over again. You won’t have to bug your buddy to huck discs until his arm falls off, you can just take out your SkyLight and keep raising the disc inch by inch. Of course reading is another thing by its self, but what the SkyLight helps with is visualizing how high you can actually catch it, getting the upper hand on your opponent when both of you are equally matched in reading. We’ll be releasing two more videos going over these details in the future with drills and techniques. The other cool thing is that it opens up new trick Skys (360’s, windmill, no-look, etc.) and we’re looking into ways for it to be used to practice “The Greatest”!
Ken: The SkyLight will have a discount pre-order period throughout the month of October 2011. We’ll be capping the amount of pre-orders to 200 units just for manufacturing feasibility. We plan to ship this first set no later than January 1st, just in time for the USAU College season, and it makes a great indoor conditioning device for the colder states. We are still working on getting quotes from our suppliers on costs so the price is not final but we have a pretty good ballpark number that everyone should be pleased to hear. You’ll be able to find out once our website and webstore releases on September 1st. The SkyLight is very easy to set up and we’ve been excited to see other players putting it together and raising it with ease. Just extend the tripod, attach the arm, and extend it up, it’s that easy. For resetting the disc we have a pole with a flat surface on one end to attach it back to the magnet, and we hope to include something similar along with an Aero Ultimate disc to the SkyLight package.
Is Aero Ultimate a one and done sort of company or are there other projects in the pipeline?
Ken: No way! Like I said, we have a list of 10 or so other great training and education products in mind and I’m excited to start working on those too. It will depend on how well the SkyLight sales go though. We are really hoping to get 200 SkyLight pre-orders by the end of October to establish our company budget. We’ll then be able to have a continuous stock of the SkyLight and resources available to get started on the next products. We hope to get as much support as we can to make those 200 units happen and have more products for you guys to look forward to in the future. Spread the word!
Where can people find out more about Aero Ultimate and the SkyLight?
Ken: Right now we are channeling most of our information, announcements and videos through our Facebook page, Twitter, and YouTube until we finish the website that will release on September 1st with a few other announcements.