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Ahead of its time

Marshalltown High School’s swimming display system is cutting edge

December 26, 2012
By TYLER STRAND - T-R Sports Writer ( , Times-Republican

Steeped in tradition, Marshalltown's swim program again is making waves around the state.

Though it's not the athletes at the forefront of the latest current, but rather a new state-of-the-art diving and timing system that has coaches and fans across Iowa taking notice.

Advancements include new software, computers, touchpads and cabling, though it's the school's innovative approach to a new scoreboard - both cutting edge and cost effective - that is turning heads.

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The Marshalltown High School swimming pool has been equipped with a pair of projection screens to complement its state-of-the-art timing system.

"Nobody has anything similar to this," said Bobcat boys' swim coach Mike Loupee of the new scoreboard display that utilizes projectors and screens to display results, pictures, highlights and more.

"It truly is unique to Marshalltown High School."

The renovations come in response to a system that had started to show more than its share of cracks - including faulty touchpads and cables as well as a malfunctioning scoreboard. Those issues rendered the school's timing technology unreliable and compromised the Bobcats' ability to host a swim meet effectively.

"We take a lot of pride in being able to run a quality swim meet, whether that's just a dual or the Bobcat Invitational or a district meet," Loupee said. "The timing system was becoming a questionable piece in our ability to do that."

Loupee quoted Joe Carter, one of the main contributors behind the Bobcats' updated system that features a six-lane display with splits, on how dire circumstances became at each competition with the previous technology.

"Joe would tell me, 'Every time we hooked it up everyone held their breath and hoped it worked the way it was supposed to," said Loupee.

Carter is part of the volunteer group that made the Bobcats' dream a reality by raising both funds and cost-effective concepts to make it happen. Other members of the group include Jeff Barske, Paul Beals, Bruce Grumstrup, Beth Grumstrup, Brian Hof, Tim Hoffman, Tim Kuehner, John Mahlstede and Jerry Van Staalduine.

Hof and Bruce Grumstrup, both Emerson Process Management, Fisher employees who developed the school's first projection and screen scoreboard, devised the latest system that will save the school thousands of dollars. Writing a new software program to accommodate the switch from Colorado-branded hardware to Daktronics-branded hardware, the forward-thinking duo helped MHS avoid a costly conventional scoreboard - a wise investment for both the present and future.

Much of the funding for the project came in the form of donations from the community with the largest coming from Emerson Process Management, Fisher and the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation. From there, the volunteer group explored many options to find the best equipment at a cost-effective price.

"We've got a great group of parents that identified what we needed before going above and beyond for the projection system and the screen to make it something that's going to last for years and years," said Loupee.

While traditional scoreboards deteriorate in the corrosive environment of a pool, MHS' projectors are protected behind glass in a P.E. office. Mechdyne employee Brent Redman found a high-definition projector and screen, slightly larger than 10 foot-by-16 foot, to enhance the display. One screen shows the ongoing results of a meet event by event, while the other has been used as a video board to promote swimming through pictures and video clips, something MHS will continue developing.

"We truly do have a state of the art system," said Loupee. "It's kind of revolutionary in the field."

Loupee is not the only one voicing high praise as he's had numerous coaches, fans and parents offer acclaim on the new technology.

The Bobcat coach defers the high marks to the project's brain trust, led by Carter who is often down on the deck manning the timing system at meets.

"I usually just point them over to whichever parent is running the system," said Loupee. "People have a tendency to give coaches a lot of credit for things that we don't have a whole lot to do with."

Expanding the system's long-term proficiency to other facets, the volunteer group also mounted plastic boxes under each starting block where the electronic connectors are housed during competition to protect them from the water.

Receiving assistance from personnel in the Marshalltown School's Maintenance and Building & Grounds, the new technology was up and running midway through the girls' swimming season. Still in its early stages, more ideas to utilize the revolutionary system - in particular the video board - are in the works.

While Marshalltown's tradition-rich swim programs have always been a draw for fans, spectators now will find themselves immersed in a swimming experience unlike any other in Iowa.

"When somebody comes to a swim meet, they're not only going to see the Bobcats compete, but they're also going to see quite a show that's centered around swimming," said Loupee.



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