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Adventures In RowingSTEM(3)

I’ve not posted much on the blog in the last couple of months. The beginning of the school year always feels like you are being shot out of a gun regardless of how much preparation you have done over the summer. I wanted to gather my thoughts about our RowingSTEM outreach project, gROW Tulsa, a part of the Tulsa Youth Rowing Association. I am hoping to document our journey in the hope that it will other rowing clubs with their efforts to expand their reach and serve their communities.

gROW Tulsa

I’ve been working hard for Tulsa Youth Rowing Association to help develop our outreach rowing program. We started this project about eighteen months ago and ran a two day a week program this past academic year at Hale Junior High in partnership with The Opportunity Project and Youth at Heart. We brought in eight rowing machines and we taught the kids how to use and care for the machines. In addition, we have been developing a RowingSTEM curriculum. I have effectively married two of my passions – teaching science and rowing into one project.

There is so much data that the PM monitor on the Concept2 collects and outputs. It seemed like a great opportunity to teach middle and high school students concepts relating to STEM. There is a ton of physics, biomechanics, data analysis, anatomy and physiology involved in sports, and rowing is no exception.

Lightbulb Moment!

I recall working with one student last year. They had just rowed a series of one-minute pieces at varying intensities. After this exercise, the next task was to plot their distances versus time on a piece of graph paper. Once we had plotted their data points on the graph, we talked about the concept of slope/gradient.

I’ll never forget the moment that the student’s eyes lit up when they realized that when they rowed faster the line was steeper on the graph! It was all that I had hoped for when I was visualizing how rowing could help kids understand and apply concepts in science and math.

Additionally, we had our first gROW Tulsa student, Christina, row on the water this past summer. Christina was one of two students there on the first day and after rowing with us this summer, she plans to row in the recreational program this fall. To find out more follow this link or just watch this movie. We hope to have many more kids follow in her footsteps.

RowingSTEM App

Over the past year, I have been working to understand how the PM5 monitor works on the Concept2. It has been a great journey that was full of creativity, curiosity, frustration and ultimately success as I worked to understand the application programming interface (API) of the PM monitor over Bluetooth. I even got some assistance from the programmer who put together the API for the monitor. Concept2 have been very supportive and have answered all of my questions (there were a great deal of them…)

As a result, I have finished the first version of an iOS app – RowingSTEM that works very similar to ErgData to help collect data. The app is a little different in that it also contains all of the activities that we have written as part of the curriculum we are developing. Additionally, the data is available for immediate export so that students can use it immediately for whatever investigation they are working on. I hope to continue to write more curriculum now that the first version of the app has been released. It opens up more possibilities and I am excited at the prospect.

App Availability

The app is currently available in the US. We will be rolling it on on a wider level in the future. However, I am proceeding cautiously at this time and opting for a soft opening. To find out more you can watch the video below, or follow this link to the Tulsa Youth Rowing Association website. I am currently looking for sources of funding to help us implement this technology in our programs. (iPads and tablet holders etc.. for the machines) so that every student has the chance to benefit from the technology.

The whole project has been a leap of faith. I am optimistic that we are heading in the right direction. The hope is that we can help other outreach programs in the nation. I’ve always wanted our materials to be “open source”. Hopefully, we can build a community around an interest in the application of STEM in rowing.

Concept-2-RowingSTEM-Download-For-iOS-on-the-App-Store
Download RowingSTEM (US App Store Only Currently)

Rowing Clinics To Serve The Community

We also ran our first rowing clinic for the Tulsa community a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to the University of Tulsa for hosting us.

I was assisted by friends and follow coaches Tamara Clayton and Katie Holtvogt. It was great to work with them as we poured as much knowledge as possible into the attendees. There were seventeen folks in attendance and had a great time teaching rowing fundamentals, sharing our journey with gROW Tulsa (RowingSTEM).

Faculty members from Webster and Carver were identified who would be prepared to help run gROW Tulsa programs. We have another training next week where hopefully faculty from Rogers can join in the training. We are hoping to have three programs running this fall. Momentum is good…

Moving forward, I am looking to save some pennies to fund a trip to attend the USRowing convention in December. I am growing my online remote coaching clientele. Therefore, I am hopeful I can afford the trip. I am looking forward to networking with other rowing outreach efforts.

If anyone reading this has any questions about the gROW Tulsa project, please don’t hesitate to contact me at neil@okrowing.org, we would love to help you out if we can. Onwards…

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