Five Questions With: Mike Crowley and Bill Runey

An executive of InfoMotion Sports Technology executive and the principal of Attleboro High School talk about the company’s 94Fifty technology and its trial run at the school. More

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Five Questions With: Mike Crowley and Bill Runey

'Engaging students in technologically innovative ways charts a course toward authentic 21st century learning,' said Bill Runey (right), principal of Attleboro High School. At left, Mike Crowley, founder and CEO of InfoMotion Sports Technologies.
Posted 4/9/14

Mike Crowley is the founder and CEO of InfoMotion Sports Technologies, a company based in Dublin, Ohio, that has developed motion-sensor technology for sports-training applications. Bill Runey, principal of Attleboro High School, believed one of InfoMotion’s products, the 94Fifty basketball, also held potential as a teaching tool for advancing Science, Technology, Education and Math learning.

Crowley and Runey spoke with Providence Business News about the 94Fifty technology, its trial run at Attleboro High School, and its potential to change how teachers engage students in STEM education.

PBN: What is a 94Fifty basketball, and what does it have to do with STEM education?

CROWLEY: The 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball contains nine inertial motion sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, and sophisticated algorithms that measure and interpret the forces applied to the ball. The ball is regulation size and weight, and it works with a free downloadable app. The ball immediately reports information to the app in a way that just about any force (acceleration, spin, etc.) can be quickly counted and understood. Originally designed as a consumer product that acts as a digital coach for basketball players wanting to quickly develop motor skills for shooting and ball-handling, the entire product is designed on physics, math and statistics principles.

RUNEY: The 94Fifty ball is a “game changer” for STEM education in our school. The fact that it is ‘portable’ on a student’s iPhone or iPad allows teachers to have students engaged immediately and throughout the lesson. A student’s outlook on math and science courses can be positively affected by infusing technology and sports into a classroom that provides the foundation for the many types of employment found in the STEM realm.

PBN: How does this approach address the shifting demands of STEM education and keep students engaged in a digital age?

RUNEY: School leaders have the daunting task of developing STEM curriculum that keeps students engaged in today’s instant gratification society in which our students’ thoughts are iMessaged, Favorited, Liked, SnapChatted or Instagramed at the click of a button.

Teachers’ lessons must be infused with technology so as to connect with their students’ mode of thinking. Engaging students in technologically innovative ways charts a course toward authentic 21st century learning. Diverse learning styles demand that teachers incorporate kinesthetics, technology, cooperative learning and data analysis to form conclusions.

PBN: Did InfoMotion Sports Technologies realize the applications of 94Fifty ball for STEM education when the company first invented the ball and mobile app?

CROWLEY: Originally, no. We designed it for the aspiring basketball player or their coaches who wanted a better way to improve how to develop and learn basketball skills. We combine what players feel with real information so that stubborn motor skill habits can quickly be re-learned or developed to improve play on the court. It wasn’t until we started to hear from some coaches who also taught math and science that there might be an application within STEM, but Attleboro High School really took it to a new level with the innovative idea to create curriculum and immerse their students learning with the ball the potential of the product as a learning tool.

PBN: How did students and teachers at Attleboro High School respond to the pilot program?

RUNEY: The teachers from two divergent departments, Engineering and Design/Visual Arts, took the challenge to infuse 94Fifty into their classrooms. The 94Fifty basketball engaged the students in both classes from day one. They only had to hear three words to become engaged: “basketball,” “iPhone” and “app.” From that point on, the students were willing to experiment, collaborate, learn and get the assignment completed. What resulted was an amazing collaboration between two departments/professions, and an explosion of hands-on learning in a real-world application.

PBN: What lessons can other schools take away from Attleboro's pilot program with the 94Fifty, and what plans does InfoMotion have to expand the app's reach going forward?

CROWLEY: The primary lesson we see is that kids today, both athletes and non-athletes, expect information to be delivered in a way that is engaging, quick, digital, objective and fun. If you can deliver information in this format, they will open their minds to learning and run with it. We see it all the time on the basketball court when young players use the app – their willingness to accept coaching to learn how to improve goes way up.

It turns out that this same principle applies to the classroom, and Attleboro proved that with its pilot. Moving forward, we are big supporters of STEM, and we plan to work with Apple Education and others to continue to make our products and the curriculum that any school develops with our products available to the education market. We are believers that the creativity of educators will drive how more schools will find their own ways to teach with 94Fifty and will drive more schools at all levels to adopt the product into their curriculum.

RUNEY: To increase the potential for college and career readiness in our high schools, school leaders must strive to find lessons that are relevant. When students write, they tend to write about what they like or enjoy. When students read, their choices usually reflect themes about which they are passionate. Adding sports and technology to a lesson is about as relevant as possible in the eyes of a teenager. Additionally, school districts that struggle to find funding can model a 1:1 Technology Initiative by using the Bring Your Own Device/BYOD method where teachers capitalize on the device that the student carries with them daily rather than invest funding in classroom sets of a specific device.

As principals, we sign purchase orders on a regular basis. A dozen dictionaries for the English Department, pastel paints for Art, but a dozen basketballs for Physics class…that is March Madness – or is it?

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