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Underwater cameras improve
swimmers' strokes, add efficiency

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - With his snorkel in place and an underwater camera in hand, Adam Katcmarchi motions for the swimmer to push off the side of the Morrow Field House pool. The Slippery Rock University physical education major is videotaping swimmers so they can research stroke technique, improve their swimming and become better aquatics teachers.

"The cameras allow us to tape a student's stroke and give them a mental image to work with and fix," Katchmarchi said. "I have used the cameras to help many students improve their strokes, and I have used it to improve my own."

Technology has opened up many new research opportunities in higher education, including SRU's physical education course "Aquatic Fundamentals" taught by Robert Ogoreuc and Istavan Kovacs, assistant professors of physical education.

Students are using underwater cameras to videotape and take pictures of each other's freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke. Each student then receives a videotape and digital photos on a portable drive so that they can analyze their own stroke and make improvements. They research proper swimming techniques, watch videos of Olympians such as Michael Phelps and then write a technique reflection paper summarizing their findings.

"I can stand on the deck and tell someone what is wrong with their stroke until I am blue in face. Letting the swimmer see it for themselves can lead to a better understanding of skills and a better-looking stroke," Katchmarchi said. "You have to watch from a multitude of different angles and levels to find out what is really going on with a swimmer's stroke and skills, including from under the water."

Ogoreuc said the eight SeaLife cameras were purchased through SRU's Technology Fee. They work like conventional digital cameras but come with a waterproof casing. Students use them in aquatic fundamentals and a scuba class.

Katchmarchi said using a camera has made a huge impact on his own swimming.

"I have been swimming recreationally since I was a young child and for the past four years as an instructor," he said. "When I was first filmed, I noticed that my front crawl stroke kick had flaws in it. Had it not been for this underwater filming, I would never have been aware of the flaws. This allowed me to figure out how to fix the problem by thinking about the errors when swimming."