Toyota Takes on the Paralympics

How a Toyota Motor Corporation team member – with help from his coworkers – took silver in PyeongChang
Mar/April 2018
In Action -- Toyota Motor Corporation team member Taiki Morii won a silver medal, his fourth overall medal in five Paralympic Games. 

Taiki Morii is not your average Toyota team member.
In addition to his day job working in the Government Affairs Division of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), Morii just won a silver medal in downhill skiing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

Going into PyeongChang, Morii knew that the current generation sit-ski needed and upgrade to shave precious time off his runs. Enter Team Morii, a group of top Toyota Motor Corporation engineers, in partnership wiht Nissin Medical Industries, who have been contributing to the development of a new sit-ski. 

Paralympic skiers use a bucket seat suspended above a ski that allows the skier, Morii in this case, to maneuver through turns on the alpine ski course using his upper body and outriggers, which look like miniature skis, attached to his hands.

"Every second counts and milliseconds can be the difference between first and third,” Morii says. “Closely collaborating with my colleagues as well as the talented engineers at Nissin Medical Industries provided an opportunity to make an improved sit-ski, applying many of the same principles Toyota uses in making cars, such as how to improve balance and power.”
More than 40 engineers teamed up to collaborate on the project. Together, they called themselves Team Morii and focused on refining the frame rigidity, enhancing the link mechanism, and improving the aerodynamics of the sit-ski using best practices gleaned at least in part from their deep knowledge of automotive design and engineering.
Figuring it Out -- Morii, center, and TMC engineers engage in discussion over a prototype model.

The journey to make the upgraded sit-ski came from a parallel drawn by the team between sit-skiing and automotive racing, including research and development, which required testing in different locations and situations.
One site was Sugadaira Kogen, a mountain ski resort near Nagano, Japan. On the mountain, Morii was hooked up to various computer-aided engineering (CAE) devices to pinpoint form factor changes while skiing, hoping to shave critical time off each run. Next came the Shoken wind tunnel experiment room, designed to test the aerodynamics of car design. Engineers measured Morii in 14 different positions to determine the most aerodynamic technique for a sit-skier and the ideal shape for a sit-ski.
Testing Day -- Team Morii tests the sit-ski in the Shoken, inc., wind tunnel experiment room. 

Morii and his team also went to Fuji Speedway, where he took several laps with renowned racing driver and Ambassador of Toyota Gazoo Racing, Juichi Wakisaka. Through these various testing environments and experiences, the team collected critical data and Morii gained a different perspective of his sport, along with insights into how to continue improving things for the ideal sit-ski.
"The project took two years of development, and while challenging at first, it reinforced the importance of focusing on customer's needs,” said Tomohito Enomoto, the project leader. "It has been a pleasure to work with a top athlete like Morii, and we believe we have learned many things from this experience that we can transfer to how we make cars. By offering mobility solutions, we can provide solutions that will help those like Morii chase their dreams, and we look forward to cheering them on as they start their impossible."
The sit-ski made by Team Morii has indeed improved thanks to the use of shared knowledge, such as chassis production engineering and CAE parsing technique for automobiles. The results? A new concept sit-ski where a cowl has been added to cover the feet of the skier for better aerodynamics, the weight has been reduced by approximately 15 percent compared to four years ago, and the newly designed frame is approximately three times more rigid.
"One of the highlights of my career has been working with such a dedicated group to take on this challenge using all available tools and experiences," added Morii. "A real-life embodiment of 'Start Your Impossible' scenario played out as I saw my company, Toyota, contributing to society through its commitment to developing mobility solutions to help athletes like me achieve our dreams.”
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