Science Meets Fun
Students participate in National Biomechanics Day
Running, swinging, dancing and jumping are more than human movement. They’re biomechanics. And they’re fun.
That’s the message that Dr. Paul DeVita and other East Carolina University faculty and students wanted to share on National Biomechanics Day.
DeVita’s brainchild, the day is now in its third year bringing awareness to high school students around the world.
He came up with the idea in 2015 after hearing from undergraduate students who were afraid of biomechanics because of the physics, math and science involved. “I said this isn’t right. We need more people coming to the university excited about biomechanics,” said DeVita, the Leroy T. Walker Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and director of the ECU Biomechanics Lab in the College of Health and Human Performance.
Since then, close to 10,000 students have been introduced to the science of human movement.
“Humans are moving in all kinds of ways. It’s the physical nature of our lives,” DeVita said. “We use muscles to generate energy and use particular muscles to do that in a skillful way.”
ECU celebrated the day in the Biomechanics Lab in the Department of Kinesiology, in the Human Movement Analysis Lab in the Department of Physical Therapy and will hold an event with dancers from the School of Theatre and Dance today.
In the Biomechanics Lab, four stations helped introduce J.H. Rose High School students in Alicia Carawan’s anatomy and physiology class to some of the work and research taking place at ECU.
Carawan said the field trip complemented a recently completed unit on the skeletal and muscle systems. “There’s a lot of things you can do with this besides being a doctor,” said Carawan, who has brought classes to ECU since National Biomechanics Day started. “Many say they didn’t know it existed. The kids get really excited.”
J.H. Rose senior Je’Nya Taylor, who will attend ECU in the fall, said it was the first time she heard about biomechanics. “It’s something I would think about,” said Taylor, who plans to become a nurse.
Many professions including nursing use biomechanics, said ECU teaching instructor Patrick Rider. A Greenville native, Rider became interested in the field after discovering engineering wasn’t exactly what he wanted to study in college. “For high school students who like engineering and sports, biomechanics is a great way to combine these two interests into a career,” Rider said.
At ECU, Rider uses 3-D motion capture to study ways to help athletes perform better and reduce injury. To demonstrate, Grayson Bauer, a J.H. Rose baseball player, wore markers to record his motions while batting. “We can track each dot and measure how it moves through space,” Rider said.
The applications of biomechanics range from popular sports video games and running analyses to exoskeleton devices for people with spinal cord injuries. In a published study on weight loss, ECU’s Biomechanics Lab found that for every pound a person loses, the pressure in each knee is reduced by four pounds, DeVita said.
Jessica McDonnell, a doctoral student in ECU’s sensory motor integration lab, talked with high school students about her research of the synchronicity between the brain and body and motor learning.
“I hope they get an appreciation for how cool the body and movement is and how it can impact everything,” McDonnell said.
On a big screen in the lab, social media posts using #NBD2018 poured in from universities across the state, nation and world showing students in different activities throughout the day.
DeVita, past president of the American Society of Biomechanics, said the day offers a glimpse of the future. “We will be the breakthrough science of the 21st century,” he said.