Alumnus, Professor Works on Splashy New Project

New Albany High School's starting blocks, designed by Joel Gundlach

Industrial Design alumnus and professor Joel Gundlach (CCAD 1986) just completed a unique design project for New Albany High School's natatorium—he redesigned the pool starting blocks.

The project was especially close to home for Gundlach, who is a New Albany swim team parent. A generous contribution from the Berend family allowed the school to ask Gundlach to look at recreating the starting blocks.

"My approach to designing anything is that this is your one opportunity to do everything you dreamed about and put all those features you dreamed of into one object," Gundlach said.

Left to right: Joel Gundlach, Keith Berend, Cindy Berend, and Jay Gundlach

Gundlach, with help from his brother Jay, talked to swimmers, volunteers, judges, and parents about their needs. He also reviewed the research of a colleague who designed blocks for a Worthington pool. The Gundlachs spent more than 300 hours designing, sketching, and then meeting with Columbus Machine Works, Inc., who manufactured the blocks.

One of the special features Gundlach included in the starting blocks were speakers. After talking with the swim team, he realized that swimmers in the last lane often cannot hear the judge start the race putting them at a disadvantage. Speakers help every swimmer hear the starting horn. The blocks also have a strobe light built in that goes off when the race starts. Gundlach also incorporated steps, since the blocks are used by young adults and children; fins to add traction, similar to those on a runner's sprinting block; and a compartment to hold volunteers' timers so they are no longer placed on the ground in between heats.

The blocks also had to coordinate with strict regulations such as the edge being no more than 30 inches from the water and the platform being tilted at no more than a 10-degree angle.

"The donation to create the blocks was a great benefit," Gundlach said. "We were able to include all the features we wanted and also use stainless steel as a material. Stainless steel is perfect in that it is resistant to the harsh chemicals in the pool and the humidity in the natatorium."

The blocks were installed just in time for the team's first home meet on Dec. 4, and so far reviews have been great. Gundlach has created custom furniture since 1985 and has worked on projects for CCAD including drawing horses for the Fine Arts studios and tables for the ceramic classrooms.