A group of interdisciplinary researchers from Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), hosted a Dragon Boat simulator in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens from March 14th to 18th. This was an interactive installation supported by the ‘Engineering for Life’ project at SHU which has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under the ‘Bridging the Gaps’ initiative.
Dr Vesna Milanovic from the ‘Engineering for Life’ team says ‘…it is one of the most original and innovative ways of public engagement for all ages; growing old and growing young using the rowing as an activity, coupled by a drum beats and the beautiful landscapes of the Lake District . In this way participants from the all age groups engage in this specific physical activity through fun, music, joy and in a community team spirit…’
Teams of five were recruited and scheduled into the week at specific times. One member of the team was a ‘drummer’ and banged a real drum in the prow of the boat to set a time. The other four team members paddled the boat with Wii remotes in the paddles recording their speed and synchronicity as a team. The screen in front and to either side played a simulation video of the boat travelling along a river. The front screen also displayed the teams speed and time.
Researchers from the University compiled data about the positive benefits of team sport and exercise while participants tested their ability on the boats.
Dr Helen Crank, researcher at Sheffield Hallam who is leading the project, said: ” Dragon boat racing combines an unusual mix of individual and team work, and physical and mental agility.
“It is also an innovative, fun and relatively accessible way of raising fitness levels and we are hoping more people to sign up to dragon boat racing teams during this simulated event. Hopefully it will inspire people to think about novel ways in which they can boost their fitness.”
Dr Jon Wheat, a senior research fellow in the University’s Health and Well Being faculty said: “The idea is that the more in time they paddle as a team, the quicker they will go as opposed to each individual paddling as fast as they can. The week will be fun, raise awareness of exercise and health and wellbeing benefits, as well as demonstrating that exercise doesn’t have to be serious.”
The story behind this work is based on research by Prof Don McKenzie who explored the positive effects of dragon boat paddling on cancer sufferers and survivors. This has become a global movement used for positive health and well-being benefits and for raising public awareness.