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Ariana Kukors

Olympic Coaches and Top-Ranked Athlete To Talk About
Science of Swimming Oct. 4
Three big names in Olympic swimming will visit campus on Monday, Oct. 4, to talk about the science of swimming and their experience working with Timothy Wei, professor and head of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering.

World Champion and 200-meter individual medley world record-holder Ariana Kukors, aerospace engineer and USA Swimming lead science and technology support director Russell Mark, and U.S. Women’s Olympic Swim Team 2008 Assistant Coach and U.S. Women’s World Championships team 2009 Head Coach Sean Hutchison will give a behind-the-scenes look at the technological and scientific arms race underlying the sport of international competitive swimming.

The event will take place at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. The free event is open to all members of the Rensselaer community.

“It’s no mistake that swimmers continue to break world records every year. Training and monitoring equipment is advancing at a tremendous rate, and coaches are increasingly enlisting the help of engineers and scientists to better understand how swimmers interact with the water. There’s no doubt that technology is driving faster lap times,” Wei said.

Wei has worked with Mark, Hutchison, and Kukors for several years, and advised USA swimming as the team prepared for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With his students, Wei developed a new type of monitoring system by pairing force measurement tools 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.

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.

“The knowledge gained gave me the foundation for which every technical stroke change in preparation for the Beijing Olympics was based,” Hutchison said of Wei’s project, in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.

To see a video of Wei talking about this technology, and of Kukors testing the equipment, go to

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 14, September 24, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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