BCIT’s innovation returns Burnaby Lake Rowing Club to former glory

Nikita Nayak / September 26, 2019

The Burnaby Lake Rowing Club now has a FISA approved starter system
(PeggyCreativeLenz / Flickr)

Rowers at Burnaby Lake

Tech designers at BCIT’s CARI campus invented a ‘rowing starter system’ that now allows Burnaby Lake Rowing Club to host international standard regattas. Thanks to this innovation, the club will be hosting the RCA National Rowing Championships for the second year in a row. The competition will see 250 rowers from across the country, plowing the lake for national titles.

On one hand the rowers did not care much for the upgraded system.

When you’re at the starting gate, you’re incredible focused and it doesn’t make too much of a difference whether the start is a beep, a green light, or a megaphone.

Clark ShultzUBC Rowerhttps://

However, the new technology is a huge leg up on the club’s old starting system, which used flags and a starting pistol to give a signal to the rowers at the starting line.

The significance of the starting system is that that will enable us to reach the international standards with respect to how, for example, the Olympics are done – basically under exactly the same set of procedures. –  Burnaby Lake Rowing Club Pesident Peter Klinkow.

The International Rowing Federation ensures that starting systems meet international standards especially if a club wants to bid to host the national or world championships.

The club could not afford to make the required updates to the pre-existing system when BCIT’s team stepped in to design the machine for free at the request of the club-director and two-time Olympic rower, Ian Gordon. 

A special applied research team called Make+ began designing the new system in 2016. The new electronic system was first tested out at the National Championships last year.

The inconspicuous machine comes packed in a yellow briefcase but has two important functions. It not only helps determine if the rowers’ boats are aligned at the starting line but gives them the start signal.

The red light tells them to be at attention — that the race is about to start. The green light, plus the horn tells them that the race is started and they can proceed down the course.

Gordon ThiessenMake+ Project Leaderhttps://

The electronic starting system resembles traffic lights when turned on. (BCIT Media / BCIT Commons)

The new starting system

Historically, the Burnaby Lake Rowing Club has held a reputation for being a world-class location for regattas and has produced some of the top rowing champions for Canada. The new innovation will help them continue to uphold that legacy in the coming years. People can view a live stream of the 2019 RCA National Rowing Championships on Rowing Canada Aviron’s Facebook page.