Fluid Dynamics Hobbies: Synchronized Swimming

For many employees at Alden, fluid dynamics is part of their life outside the office--in the sports they choose for their free time.  In many cases, a sport was what came first and later helped inform a career choice in fluids and fluid flow.  This new and ongoing series will feature some of the various and unique ways our employees spend some of their non-working hours and how CFD and fluid flow analysis is being used to improve techniques used in those sports.

Part 1 - Synchronized Swimming - Amie Humphrey Facendola


I have loved swimming and being in or on the water since I was very young.  I was fortunate enough to join the local synchronized swimming team in my early teens and the sport has played a significant role in my life.  I competed with the Synchro-Maids of Central Massachusetts for 6 years in middle/high school and again as a masters swimmer for 4 years after college. A love of water is the reason I chose the concentration of civil and environmental engineering in college and was one reason why I was so excited to join the hydraulic modeling group at Alden in 2007.

Synchronized swimming, an often misunderstood activity, is a difficult sport that combines strength, agility, endurance and artistic interpretation of music to produce a beautiful display of movement in water.  While upside down underwater, synchronized swimmers rely on their hands and arms to power and lift them out of the water.  The main goal is often to produce the greatest lift and to be as high out of the water as possible.  A standard sculling technique used when upside down is called the support scull.

This video shows the support sculling technique used to propel a swimmer's legs out of the water while upside down.

Some computational studies specific to synchronized swimming have been conducted of various ways to improve lift and power and therefore height.  In one study conducted by Shinichiro Ito of the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Japan, the hydrodynamic hand characteristics of five hand shapes were investigated in a steady-state flow field to determine the configuration resulting in the maximum force and therefore the best performance.  It was determined that the most buoyant lift was produced from a cupped hand (rather than flat), straight fingers (rather than naturally bent) and no gaps between the fingers.

Masters-Nationals-2010-Synchronized-Swimming

Amie and her teammates competing at the 2010 U.S. Masters Synchronized Swimming Championships in La Mirada, California.

Please share photos or videos of yourself involved in fluid dynamics related hobbies, and stay tuned for more.

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