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Engineering Students Use Skills to Aid Virtual Fitness Company

Work continues throughout the summer in the makerspace at West Campus.

From left, Engineering Professor and Program Director Tolga Kaya and Kinima Fit co-founder Renee Migdal look on as engineering students Nate Barone, Henry Sinclair and Gabe Bitencourt create workout videos as part of an internship in the makerspace at West Campus.

Sacred Heart University engineering students are helping to perfect technology for Kinima Fit, a virtual fitness trainer, at SHU’s West Campus.

Recently, a few rising sophomores were in the makerspace (an open lab where people explore, tinker and invent) with Renee Migdal, Kinima Fit’s co-founder. Surrounded by drones, LEGO creations and equations scrawled on white boards, students ducked behind computers and consulted with each other as one of their peers tested the fitness technology with exercise movements in front of a green screen.

Kinima, which means movement in Greek, is a free-form exercise platform that uses technology to bridge the gap between personal trainers and fitness classes. The artificial intelligence, which tracks exercise repetitions, effort and calories burned, has been on the market for a year and can be found in high-end gyms and facilities, according to Migdal.

The fitness station, or computer, converts to a mirror, tracking the user’s movements and giving exercise cues and real-time feedback. “Students are testing and creating new features,” said Migdal, adding that SHU athletes have tested the fitness trainer and provided suggestions, which improves the technology.

Migdal learned about SHU’s engineering program after visiting its booth at the Maker Faire Westport in April. As she spoke with Tolga Kaya, associate professor of computer engineering, they realized the mutual benefits of a partnership in which students would apply their skills to an actual business.

“I’m really impressed by it all,” said Migdal. “This whole set-up here in the makerspace is great, and the team has an impressive range of skills.”

Kaya said he and his students didn’t think they would come back from the Maker Faire with an industry connection; it just happened organically.

On that Thursday morning, sophomore Gabe Bitencourt performed an exercise in front of the green screen and camera. Once the motion was recorded, sophomore Henry Sinclair edited the content to ensure it remains consistent throughout the training software.

“It’s definitely eye-opening,” said sophomore Nate Barone, who was working on a spreadsheet and identifying various exercises for different parts of the body. “It’s been interesting. It’s a different dynamic than what we’re used to. We’re getting real-world experience.”

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