The Division of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy participated in the National Biomechanics Day for the third consecutive year. National Biomechanics day is an annual, worldwide event initiated by Prof. Paul DeVita. The goal of this event is to provide exposure for high school students to explore STEM careers through the lens of biomechanics.
Biomechanics is a diverse field that appeals to students with a broad range of interests. The many applications of biomechanics include movement analysis, sports performance, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. These topics are visually and technologically captivating to younger, tech-savvy students, but many of them have little, if any, exposure to these kinds of technologies.
This year, the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory, the Human Performance Laboratory, and the Locomotor Control Laboratory partnered together to host National Biomechanics Day. A group of 32 students currently enrolled in physics at Miramar High School attended our laboratories to engage with hands-on scientific technology. This was a unique opportunity that empowered the students to apply the theoretical knowledge they gained in the classroom to tangible applications while being exposed to state-of-the-art biomechanics technology.
Students worked in small groups and were each able to experiment with:
- Strength testing
- Virtual reality
- Measuring muscle activity (electrical signals of their muscles during movement)
- Locomotor adaptation on a dual-belt treadmill
- Inertial measurement units
- Motion capture
- Musculoskeletal ultrasound.
One of the high-school students, who had previously enrolled in a summer introductory coding course at the University of Southern California, was excited to find out that she could use coding to program virtual reality environments that could be used for interventions in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.
Another student experienced first-hand how ultrasound is used for diagnostics, further fostering his interest in physics. While viewing ultrasound images of his patella tendon, the students were able to distinguish the different types of tissue in the knee and identify sources of inflammation which may have contributed to the student’s knee pain.
Students were also particularly excited to use virtual reality for the first time. Students immersed themselves in some of the virtual environments that were designed in the Locomotor Control Lab. Specifically, they worked with a virtual environment where the user has to find the letters that made up a word as they walk through a mountain scene. Students were allowed to choose the words for their friends to guess, and of course, hilarity ensued!
National Biomechanics Day is a great opportunity for our Division to provide a unique experience for students and help them identify potential career paths. We hope that our outreach to local high school students provides them a unique hands-on experience and we intend on continuing this tradition to encourage a diverse population of students to pursue college degrees in STEM fields.