By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Brian Dirrane was tired of taking his eyes and attention off of his swimmers at the pool.
Each time he started and stopped coaching to record splits and progressions, he had to look down and away to control the stopwatch on his iPhone. It was inefficient for his needs, and slowed him down.
“The functionality of the iPhone stopwatch that came with the phone was a problem,” said Dirrane, assistant coach of the Upper Valley Aquatic Club in White River Junction, Vermont. “I searched the iPhone app store for a better version or an appliance to attach to the phone to make it possible for me to not to have to look down and away each time I recorded a time. It didn’t exist.”
In order to circumvent the problem, Dirrane approached one of his tech-savvy swimmers, Connor Koehler, about creating a stopwatch app that would accomplish his needs by including an audible start and stop option on his iPhone.
Koehler conducted some early research on exiting apps as well as the creation of new apps, and within a few weeks had a new one that overcame the technical issue of the original iPhone stopwatch app.
“Brian was having trouble hitting the software buttons and starting the stopwatch, so he asked me to help,” said Koehler, a 15-year-old high school sophomore who has been swimming at Upper Valley since he was 10. “He would need to look at the screen which is hard to do when you try to look at the start and at the swimmer finishing at the wall.
“The use of the volume buttons give it a physical button to press, and when it is pressed, the iPhone vibrates to confirm that the command was sent. You can even customize it to make the screen flash when the button is pressed.”
Koehler developed the stopwatch with friend Max Greenwald, coming up with the idea of using the volume buttons to start/stop and lap/reset. An iOS developer, Greenwald worked on the project over this summer, and together, they built the app to include an intuitive history functionality so that anyo
ne can go back and look at the total time and laps that happened during that session with an easy-to-use interface.
The two are currently working on an Android version expected to come out in the first half of 2013.
“Max and I started programming for the iPhone and iPad about a year and a half ago, and we wanted to put custom apps on our iPads,” said Koehler, whose main swim events are the 500 freestyle and 100 butterfly. “Our first app was a calculator called InfinityCalc, which is a free calculator for the iPad and iPhone. It’s meant to be a simple calculator that you can have wherever you go.”
Koehler said the stopwatch app is currently available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and coaches can go and download the app. They set the price for the app at $.99,and they are continually adding new features and working on it.
“The app is not aimed just at coaches; other swimmers and parents could use it for timing,” Koehler said.
Koehler said he and Greenwald are thinking about creating a web design and mobile application development company locally as he enjoys doing more of the graphics design and Greenwald likes doing the programming.
“Right now it is just a hobby, and we both would like to pursue a career path into application development and graphic design,” Koehler said. “I plan on swimming in college. I have friends in college now that swim, and they love it.”
Dirrane has been using the iPhone stopwatch app for a couple of months now and said he is amazed at the difference it has made in terms of storage and efficiency – and it interacts well with USA Swimming’s incentive program, Deck Pass.
“It’s an excellent app; I use it all the time,” Dirrane said. “It displays continuously, and there are ideas for future functionality. It’s very easy to use no matter how tech-savvy someone may or may not be.
“Someone asked me why I just don’t use a regular stopwatch at the pool, but with the iPhone, there are so many ways to store and record splits and times that can be used in some many different ways electronically. Rather than having to input times over and over for various uses, I can do it once with the iPhone stopwatch app. Plus, stopwatch buttons lose their sensitivity over time, and that’s not a problem with the iPhone.”