Billiards a great teaching tool for M/E students, prof says

Colorado State University students have built a cue-testing machine from scratch to measure and compare different cue sticks by measuring squirt. Up next? The students plan to add sensors to measure vibrations and compare speed of the cue stick and design the ideal cue stick.


Dave Alciatore has taught mechanical engineering at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., for 18 years and uses the mechanics of billiards to help his students learn mechanical engineering and physics principles.

In his classes, Alciatore’s students have worked with a private cue manufacturer to reduce “squirt,” aka the angle produced in the initial cue ball’s path by an off-center hit. The students built a cue-testing machine from scratch to measure and compare different cue sticks by measuring squirt. Up next? The students plan to add sensors to measure vibrations and compare speed of the cue stick and design the ideal cue stick.

In 1998, Alciatore took a sabbatical in Washington, D.C., to work on a textbook and a government project. To fill his down time, he joined a pool league and read books on pool playing. He decided to write his own book after observing incorrect descriptions in other books of the physics behind billiards.

Alciatore's own book, "The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards," was published in 2004. Since then, he has written a monthly column for Billiards Digest. He also has created several popular academic websites. His billiards site contains a shot-by-shot anthology of pool and billiards techniques and principles including technical analysis and high-speed video clips. His super-slow-motion video Web site , received 29,000 hits in March alone.

Alciatore joined CSU's College of Engineering in 1990 as an expert in robotics and the motion of machines. His first major project involved writing 3-D software to recreate human anatomy as part of the National Institutes of Health Visible Human Project in Denver.

Read more about Alciatore and Colorado State University here .

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