Celebrating National Biomechanics Day with Nottoway Seventh Graders

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, approximately 160 grade 7 students from Nottoway County Public Schools attended a field trip to Longwood in celebration of National Biomechanics Day. National Biomechanics Day (NBD) was started by the American Society of Biomechanics and is a celebration of biology and the physical world and provides an opportunity to foster awareness of the diverse contributions the field can support – including, medicine and health, human and animal movement and performance, biomedical engineering, prosthetics, and human-machine interactions! NBD has grown to be an international event each spring celebrating the field of biomechanics. While the official NBD was celebrated on April 6, 2022 and is generally an international celebration with high school students, colleagues from the College of Education, Health, and Human Services (CEHHS) wanted to provide a face-to-face campus opportunity for middle school students to build an early awareness to career opportunities. The collaborative effort between the Institute for Teaching through Technology and Innovative Practices (ITTIP), the Department of Health, Athletic Training, and Recreation and Kinesiology (HARK), and Nottoway County Public Schools was intended to spark interest and intrigue into the world of biomechanics. Dr. Stephanie Playton, ITTIP, stated, “It is so important to foster awareness of career pathways for our youth and make these connections to their current knowledge. These affordances can impact their interests and future choices in furthering their education”.

Longwood students speak and answer questions for grade 7 students after a demonstration.

Throughout the day, the students participated in various activities around Longwood’s campus that were centered around the complexities of biomechanics and Kinesiology –

The students arrived at 9:30 and were greeted by various members of the Longwood faculty. Among the faculty was Dr. David Locascio, Associate Dean of the CEHHS, who gave the opening remarks of the day and welcomed the students to Longwood. Dr. Tim Coffey, the Kinesiology program coordinator at Longwood, explained the concept of NBD to the students. Dr. Coffey said that this event is held across the country to “introduce people to the field of biomechanics”; he explained that biomechanics is a mixture of physics and anatomy and “looks at how the human body moves like a machine”. He also stated that the overall goal with biomechanics and sports science is to determine how to stop sports injuries. The students were then divided into three groups to attend several hands-on activities throughout the day: Exploring the interactive tools in Biomechanics Lab, collecting data in the Gummy Worm Stretch activity, visiting and observing the Golf Performance Center, participating in a demonstration of center of gravity using a foot pressure mat, or going on a campus tour.

In the Biomechanics Lab, students were shown and interacted with force plates, which are used to look at the forces that individuals demonstrate during human motion, and 3D motion analysis cameras that are used to track human movement. The Longwood student volunteers explained that not only are 3D motion analysis systems used in sports, but also in cinema to analyze human motions for movie and video game production. Students also got to learn about the anti-gravity treadmill which is used to help move people without pain while recovering from mobility issues, improve wellness, and/or enhance physical performance.

The Gummy Worm Stretch activity had students working with gummy worms to learn about mechanical stress and strain. During the activity, students connected binder clips to gummy worms and stretched the gummy worms using wooden blocks, measuring the stretch, or strain, that occurred in the gummy worm because of stress. The students then repeated this activity with a frozen gummy worm and compared the results. In this scenario, the gummy worm represents what can occur with muscles and connective tissue that have been warmed up before physical activity compared to those who had not, helping to understand the biomechanics of warm versus cold muscles to avoid injuries.

In the Golf Performance Center, student volunteers demonstrated to the students the technology used by the Longwood men and women’s golf teams and how the players can utilize this technology to improve their skills. The students learned about the different ways your golf swing is measured, what those measurements represent and how they translate to improving your golf game.

In the Maugans Alumni Center, Longwood student volunteers demonstrated the use of pressure mats in sports science to examine the pressure placed on an individual’s feet. The pressure mat also can locate an individual’s center of gravity and calculate how well they can control or balance it. Grade 7 students were then invited to stand on the pressure mat to get a first-hand view of how it measures your balance and how you stand on your feet evenly (or unevenly).

The last rotation for students included a tour of Longwood University’s campus where middle school youth learned they too could have a home here in Farmville in a short five years. Longwood’s celebration of National Biomechanics Day was a success that helped to educate students and inspire them to learn more about biomechanics and Longwood University’s offerings as students to building awareness to their post-secondary opportunities.

Guest Authorship: Callie Williams is a Richmond, Virginia native and Longwood University alumni of the Longwood’s Reading, Literacy, and Learning graduate program and is planning to be an elementary teacher (after graduation in May 2022). In their spare time, they enjoy spending time with friends.