The following article appear on the Front Page of the Steuben Republican on Friday, January 22, 2016. Nick Santino, #657 and Nathaniel Scroggins, #1171 are Beta Omicron Brothers. - GeneWavemakers try out new reaction lights of races on Wednesday
Start block lights take off
BY AMY OBERLIN
ANGOLA - The YMCA of Steuben County is the test site for an innovation in swim competitions.
Home of the Wavemakers swim team, the Y partnered with Trine University's Innovation One to debut a product that uses lights instead of a noise to signal the start of a race.
Trine University senior design engineering technology major, Nathaniel Scroggins, left, and other Trine staff and students install reaction lights in the YMCA of Steuben County pool Wednesday afternoon
"We're very excited to be partnering with Trine University," said YMCA of Steuben County CEO Krista Miller.
Innovation One is a team of faculty, staff and students working together to develop new ideas, products and technologies and assist area business with research and development.
A Lilly intern, Nathaniel Scroggins, a senior design engineering technology major from Hanover, started working last summer redesigning the start lights, created by a New York based company owned by Tri State College alumnus Nick Santino.The production of Santino's Swimming Reaction Lights has been moved from Newark, New York, to Trine.
The first batch of lights was shipped from Trine in the fall of 2015. They were used during the World Deaf Swimming Championships in Texas and are in place at Palmyra-Macedon High School in New York.
Scroggins' tweaks improved the aesthetics and functionality of the lights along with dramatically cutting the costs of production, said an article in Trine's winter magazine. Trine technicians continue to perfect the lights, and the YMCA is part of the process.
The equipment was installed in the YMCA pool Wednesday and will be maintained and tested by Trine students and engineers.
"With us being so close, they could come in, they could videotape, the could monitor," said Miller.
Wavemakers board of directors president Aaron Ulrich said he expects reaction lights to eventually be used in the Olympics.
"It is absolutely exciting to be on the entry level of something that is going to be everywhere," Ulrich said.
The Wavemakers tried the new system Wednesday night, with positive reactions from the young swimmers, ages 5 to 20.
"They were just excited, bouncing off the walls, yelling and screaming," said Ulrich.
The excitement and hubbub that builds at a busy pool during competitions is part of the reason lights may be superior to auditory start signals.
"With the way pools are set up, sound does not travel very well with the water and in a loud arena," said Ulrich. The light bar is a personal cue for the swimmers that does not require them to focus outside their lane for a prompt.
This weekend, swimmers from the DeKalb County and South Bend YMCAs will be at the Angola Y for a competition and will get the treat of being among the first to try a new innovation that is already making waves.