The secret, Wei said, is in understanding how the water moves. The new system incorporates highly sophisticated mathematics with stop-motion video technology to identify key vortices, pinpoint the movement of the water, and compute how much energy the swimmer exerts.
"You have to know the flow," Wei said. "To see how a swimmer's motion affects the flow, you need to know how much force the swimmer is producing, and how that force impacts the water."
"Swimming research has strived to understand water flow around a swimmer for decades because how a swimmer's body moves the surrounding water is everything," said USA Swimming's Biomechanics Manager Russell Mark. "The ability to measure flow and forces in a natural and unimpeded environment hasn't been available until recently, and Dr. Wei's technology and methods presented USA Swimming with a unique opportunity that United States swimmers and coaches could learn a lot from."
Wei has been working with USA Swimming for several years, but the idea and design of the new flow measurement tool really took shape in 2007. Most of the preliminary tests were conducted in October 2007, and the coaches and swimmers have spent the past several months incorporating what they have learned into their training regimes. For any swimmer, it takes time to make adjustments to their strokes and practice new techniques, Wei said.
One highlight of working on the project was when Mark arranged for Wei to attend the 2007 and 2008 U.S. Summer Nationals and be on deck with the swimmers.
"How often does a researcher get to do something like this?" said Wei, whose young son and daughter also swim competitively. "It's been a journey into a world that someone like me would have never before gotten the privilege to see first-hand."
Wei began his research career as an aeronautical
|Contact: Michael Mullaney|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute