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rowing stem gathers momentum

Rowing STEM Curriculum

We (Tulsa Youth Rowing Association) have made a great deal of progress over the last year in developing the RowingSTEM curriculum and connecting with educators and students.

We have created a maker space project using Bluetooth, Arduino Boards, and LED Strips to make an erg-based carnival game for a local field day. We were featured on the podcast Ready, Row, USA thanks to Charlotte Pierce. Additionally, we have partnered with STEM to Stern to provide a STEM curriculum for their outreach and inclusion efforts in rowing. Finally, we have been invited to present at an international STEM Ecosystems Conference in Bay City, Michigan this coming June. It has taken a while to gain some momentum on this passion project, but the steam is starting to build and the train is beginning to leave the station. It’s an exciting time indeed! 

Here are some events and projects that we have been involved with over the last few months. I hope that the following content and news sparks your interest. We are looking to build a community around the curriculum to help it expand and grow. 

Trip to Hockaday School

Learning about time and distance graphs with rowing data.
Learning about time and distance graphs with rowing data.

In September last year, we were invited to visit Hockaday School to work with some of their science students and the rowing team. The idea was to run a lesson in one of their freshman science classes and observe some classes during a typical day. When I arrived, I met with the head of the science department. We had a great discussion about the gROW Tulsa RowingSTEM project and he was excited about the time/distance graph activity that I had planned to work through with their students. I provide a link to the activity that we did in the morning below. 

Applied Math and Science In Rowing

Hockaday has a day of community giving when Hockaday students travel off-campus to work with under-resourced students. In early November the rowing team was scheduled to take rowing machines to a local public school to introduce them to rowing. The Head Coach of Hockaday Rowing, Will Fortieth, who had invited me to spend a couple of days at the school, was interested in all we had learned in our outreach efforts in Tulsa, and how his team might be able to do similar work in their community.

Distance vs Time Graph Activity

In the first class of that day, I worked with a freshman physics class. Following a quick lesson on how to row effectively on the machine, the students were paired up. One student rowed on the machine and the other student looked at the numbers on the monitor and recorded the distance traveled every minute of a four-minute row.  It is important to note that RowingSTEM for iOS or Android can record all of this data in real-time, however, I decided that in the interest of time, we would use paper and pencil to record the data.

The protocol was as follows: 

Rowing Data Table
Time (mins)Distance (meters)Protocol
Row Slowly.
1 min
Row at a moderate pace.
2 min
Row as slow as you can.
3 min
Row as fast as you can.
4 min

As you can see we wanted to vary the pace during each minute of the row. At each minute interval, the distance traveled was recorded in the middle column of this table. After we had finished recording data for each student, we went back to the classroom lab to plot the data on graph paper. We discussed creating a scale on the graph paper so that as much of the paper provided could be used to make the graph viewable. Additionally, a discussion of labeling the graph with a title, and labels for each graph with the correct units. The data points were plotted on the graph and then we talked about the slope of the line at various parts of the graph. 

time distance graph rowing data
Example of graphing features of RowingSTEM

Experiencing The Data

This was an effective activity because the students connected their experience while rowing and how this corresponded to the slope of the line on their graphs. The students had experienced increased and decreased rowing speed so the graph could be interpreted correctly. This is a great aspect of applied science in the area of rowing. The Concept2 rowing machine collects a great deal of data. Students can use this data to understand foundational science concepts to help develop their competencies. This is just one example of how this type of idea could be applied.

At the end of the class, I was asked to teach another freshman science class at the end of the day because the first class had been a success. 

The plan was to spend the next part of my day observing an AP Physics class. However, the instructor asked if I wanted to teach his class. I didn’t have anything prepared for this class, but the opportunity seemed like a great one, so I accepted!

Naturally, I chose the force curve as a way to teach the concepts of impulse, momentum, and applied force. So we had a 15-minute discussion on these concepts, and then we went outside to the rowing machines. And again, after a quick coaching session to learn how to row, we used RowingSTEM to capture the force curve data points so that we could examine them in a spreadsheet application after exporting them in CSV format from the app. 

front loaded rowing stroke force curve

At the end of the academic day, I spent time teaching another freshman science class and the second session progressed as well as it had during the initial morning class. 

Outreach With Hockaday Rowing

I spent the late afternoon working with the student-athletes on the rowing team and demonstrating how to use RowingSTEM to collect data from the machine. The highlight of the afternoon was playing the “What can you power?” game. The app connects to the rowing machine and receives the current power of each stroke in watts. We had a discussion about power is the amount of energy transferred per unit of time. To say the students got excited and motivated playing the game is an understatement! The RowingSTEM app displays the household device with the power rating that the rower is currently producing. All the athletes were trying to get the blender to show up (which occurs when the power goes higher than 300 watts). 

Watt Can You Power?

The “What can you power?” game was the first app project that I developed. The game remains the activity that kids enjoy the most. It always gets kids fired up and my experience with the Hockaday students was no different! 


We discussed the force curve and how a better understanding of what it shows could help them row faster and more cohesively.  I was able to show them various slides of my USRowing presentation – Force Curves – Understanding To Improve. 

stem to stern

The next day, I was able to ride in the launch at practice and enjoy some time on Bachman Lake. It was great to be on the water, as I don’t get that chance very often these days. We were able to work on the concepts we discussed the day before and apply them to find more boat speed. 

In conclusion, my thanks to Hockaday school for a very productive trip. I was able to see the curriculum in action in actual science classes. This was a great experience and it provided an opportunity to get some feedback on the curriculum and get more ideas on how to move it forward and improve it. 

Field Day With Technology Club – Computer Science and RowingSTEM

For the next project with RowingSTEM, I used the knowledge that I had gained from my work with Bluetooth on the PM5 to assist a student with a project for a field day carnival booth for our technology club. The idea was to create a fairground-type attraction. We ultimately used an Arduino Nano board with a Bluetooth Chip. We wanted to see if we could get the Arduino board to connect to the PM5 monitor and read the watts characteristic. If we could get this value to the Arduino board, we could use it to control the number of lights that are activated on a LED light strip. 

After much trial and error, we were able to figure out how to do this.

Here are the parts that we ordered from Amazon to develop the project. 

  1. L.E.D. Strip
  2. Nano Ardunio Board with Bluetooth

Circuit Diagram For Arduino Bluetooth Concept2 LED Game

Here is a link to the GitHub for the student that programmed the board to light up the LED strip.

Interview With Ready, Row, USA.

On Friday, November 5th, at 4:30 pm I appeared on the Ready Row USA podcast hosted by Charlotte Pierce. We discussed the intersection of Rowing and STEM and how Tulsa Youth Rowing Association is leveraging our apps and curriculum to provide more access to the sport of rowing.

We discussed our approach to integrating STEM into rowing to expand the reach of rowing and provide a more diverse and inclusive community. Integrating curriculum is the way forward and creating real-world applicable experiences is vital for a student’s learning journey

STEM to Stern partnership

I am also pleased to announce that we have partnered with STEM to Stern. This organization has a mission to integrate rowing teams with under-resourced kids to create more diverse rowing teams.  

I was contacted earlier this year by Will Bott who is the founder of STEM to Stern. He was interested in adding our curriculum to their vault of STEM activities. STEM to Stern is partnered with around fifteen rowing organizations across the nation. 

Our curriculum has been reviewed by their STEM coordinator. I have met with the college students from the Milwaukee School of Engineering who are the facilitators of the program, and they are about to roll out some of our activities to use in their programming. The Milwaukee Rowing Club will be using some of our curriculum to support the STEM component of their STEM to Stern outreach. In addition, I have just been informed that the Camp Randall STEM to Stern in Madison, Wisconsin will also be using the curriculum this summer!

Our full STEM curriculum can be viewed here. We would love for you to consider using it as part of an outreach effort. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions that you might have.

View the Tulsa Youth Rowing Association – RowingSTEM curriculum here

Find out more about STEM to Stern

Invitation to STEM Ecosystems Conference in Bay City, MI. 

The final piece of news I have to report is that I have been invited to speak at the STEM Learning Ecosystem Learning Community of Practice in Bay City, MI, this coming June.  My gratitude goes to Xan Black (SLECoP Chief of Staff) who serves on our outreach committee and has extended the invitation. I will be renting a truck and borrowing machines from Skyline Crew in Ann Arbor to take them the to conference to demonstrate our curriculum and integration of software with the Concept2 rower. This provides a much larger platform to spread the word about our program, and hopefully we can start gaining more momentum with the program and curriculum to share all we have developed with other organizations and rowing clubs. I am grateful to the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropies for their support and for helping me make this presentation and trip a possibility. What an opportunity!

More information about the conference, I hope to see you there!

“We are really excited about the opportunity to have gROW STEM share the impactful model they have built connecting rowing and STEM at the STEM Learning Ecosystem Learning Community of Practice 2022 convening in Bay City, MI.  This program has inspired so many students across Oklahoma and will now inspire even more children at the national and international levels. Huge thanks to Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropies for extending the reach of this transformative and innovative initiative by TYRA,” said Black.


We have made much progress over the last six months or so with the adoption of the RowingSTEM curriculum. I am looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring. I am looking for people who are enthusiastic about education, STEM, and/or rowing to help us scale this effort to bring these learning experiences to a wider audience. The RowingSTEM curriculum will always be open-source, so we look forward to others building on the foundation we have built. The apps will always be free and I might make the source code available on GitHub at some point if there is an interest in that.

We would love your feedback on this, or if you want to arrange for us to visit you to help you with plans for implementing something like this, please let me know!

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