Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
“Top Secret” Technology Helps Olympic Swimmers Trim Times
Milliseconds can mean the difference between triumph and defeat in the world of Olympic sports, leading more trainers and athletes to look toward technology as a tool to get an edge on the competition.
Professor Timothy Wei, head of Rensselaer’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and acting dean of the School of Engineering, helped develop top-secret equipment and mathematical techniques that the USA Swimming’s Biomechanics Manager Russell Mark used to coach Olympic hopefuls.
In years past, swimming coaches have used computer modeling and simulation to hone the techniques of athletes. But Wei developed state-of-the-art water flow diagnostic technologies, modifying and combining force measurement tools developed for aerospace research with a video-based flow measurement technique known as Digital Particle Image Velocimetry, in order to create a robust training tool that reports the performance of a swimmer in real time.
“This project moved the swimming world beyond the observational into scientific fact,” says USA Swimming Coach Sean Hutchison. “The knowledge gained gave me the foundation for which every technical stroke change in preparation for the Beijing Olympics was based.”