Setting the pace for Olympic swimmers

Texas-based LumaLanes advances UB-developed tech to create pacing lights used by world record holders at SwimMAC Carolina

By Cory Nealon

Release Date: September 10, 2014

David Pendergast.

David Pendergast

“LumaLanes took our original concept, and built a remarkably usable system to train the next generation of swimming champions. ”
David Pendergast, professor of physiology and biophysics
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – In competitive swimming, setting the correct pace can mean the difference between finishing first or second.

Yet because of the nature of the sport – swimmers often can’t hear coaches telling them to slow down or hurry up – pace is often determined by the swimmer alone.

That is starting to change.

Swimmers at SwimMAC Carolina, a nonprofit organization where world record holders and Olympians train, are using LumaLanes(tm), a system of computer-controlled pacing lights that, when placed at the pool bottom, show the swimmers their ideal pace.

Endorsed by David Marsh, the head coach, CEO and executive director at SwimMAC, the technology behind LumaLanes was developed and tested at the University at Buffalo more than 15 years ago.

The upgraded technology has been designed to be completely mobile. It includes LED, or light-emitting diode, strips that can be rolled out at the beginning of practice and rolled up at the end. Compatible with the Apple and Android operating systems, the system is controlled via smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Each lane can have up to 10 swimmers, each with their own pace color, and up to eight lanes can be connected together, with each lane running at different intervals. The training sets can be created and stored in advance of practice, and they can be created and modified during practice and stored for later use.

The system utilizes LumaLanes’ RealSwim(tm) technology, so that the LED lights reflect the acceleration and deceleration phases of block starts, wall pushes and turns in a competitive race. It allows coaches to make adjustments to each phase of a set to focus the swimmer on specific components of a race.

Swimmers under Marsh’s guidance who have trained with the technology won medals last month at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine, Calif., and at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Australia.

A promotional video showing how LumaLanes works is here:

The system stems from work in the 1990s by David Pendergast, Ed.D., UB professor of physiology and biophysics; Budd Termin, former UB swimming coach; and John Zaharkin, an electrical engineer at UB, as well as Michael Zaharkin and Albert Craig, Jr., MD, both of the Rochester area.

At one point using a laptop and car battery for power, they developed a prototype of the system and tested it with UB swimmers to remarkable success.

“LumaLanes took our original concept, and built a remarkably usable system to train the next generation of swimming champions,” Pendergast said. “When we developed the original system, our research consistently showed that swimmers were able to achieve time improvements that they previously thought were unobtainable, and our system allowed coaches to focus on coaching technique rather than watching a stopwatch or pace clock.”

Working with UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR), LumaLanes signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the SUNY Research Foundation for U.S. patent 6,086,379 to develop the system.

Media Contact Information

Cory Nealon
Director of News Content
Engineering, Computer Science
Tel: 716-645-4614
Twitter: @UBengineering