March 2021

Guest Perspective: Why We Participate In National Biomechanics Day

National Biomechanics Day (NBD)—April 7, 2021—is a worldwide celebration of biomechanics in its many forms for high school students and teachers. Sponsored by The Biomechanics Initiative, NBD is in its 6th year of celebrating all things biomechanics. NBD’s goal is to accelerate the growth and impact of biomechanics science and application by introducing biomechanics to young people, namely high school students. Through NBD, we hope to expand the world of biomechanics to young people to awaken them not only to the science of movement, but to the burgeoning career opportunities available to those who want to help understand how bodies move or how to help injured bodies move again. In 5 short years (including during a pandemic!) we’ve introduced nearly 30,000 young people around the world to the field—and we’re just getting started. NBD may be an international initiative, but it is driven locally by biomechanics enthusiasts in schools in communities large and small. Here, five biomechanists from around the world express their enjoyment about participating in NBD. We hope you’ll log on to thebiomechanicsinitiative.org to learn more and – hopefully – join us.

— Paul DeVita, PhD

Jeroen Aeles, PhD, Laboratory ‘Movement, Interactions, Performance’, University of Nantes

In only a handful of years since the inaugural National Biomechanics Day, NBD has expanded globally and taken the biomechanics world by storm. NBD raises awareness of biomechanics through outreach events for high school students inspiring young minds to pursue an education and a career in any biomechanics-related field. While holding true to its original goal, NBD has grown to so much more and it has great potential to break through barriers, educating and motivating teenagers of any sex, colour, and social class. By being a free event, organised in locations worldwide, by a truly diverse and motivated group of scientists, its reach has gone far beyond typical stand-alone science outreach events. In a time that could one day be described as pivotal in fighting social injustice, raising racial and gender awareness, and prioritizing inclusiveness, NBD becomes more important than ever to showcase education and career opportunities in biomechanics and STEM for all. With biomechanics as the breakthrough science of the 21st century, NBD provides a fun, informative tool to inspire the next generation of scientific leaders.

Brandi Row Lazzarini, PhD, Department of Exercise and Health Science, Willamette University.

I discovered biomechanics relatively late – in graduate school – when I became mesmerized by the cool lab toys. I participate in NBD to reveal biomechanics to high school students, and to develop my college students. This year, I’ve made some pandemic adjustments. My undergraduate students met on Zoom with local high school students to generate ideas for lab projects. As my students conduct these projects, they collect video footage so they can report back to the high schoolers. They will demonstrate the surprising insights biomechanics offers about human function, while pulling back the curtain into the life of a college student enjoying the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting biomechanical data. Our high school partners are realizing that a path exists in an exciting and growing field, and my students are practicing communicating science to the community. They are inspired by having a real – and young – audience to provide a real-life purpose for their projects. These are the reasons why I am participating in NBD again this year, and why these pandemic adjustments will become a consistent feature in my NBD events in the future.

Teal Darkenwald, MFA, Associate Professor, School of Theatre and Dance, East Carolina University and Antonia Zaferiou, PhD, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology

National Biomechanics Day has become more than just a day in which to celebrate all that is biomechanics. It is a day that brings people together from around the world and highlights many facets of the field including growing areas such as dance biomechanics. NBD has become a way for undergraduate and high school dance students to engage each other and has opened their eyes to the possibilities within the field of dance science. This serves as an important educational moment, broadening the scope of careers beyond graduation. Many dance students have expressed interest in pursuing careers in dance science as a result of these engaging events. We highlight the technologies used in biomechanics through interactive demonstrations using motion capture, surface electromyography (eg, Triceps and Biceps student choreography challenge) and force sensors. Through these experiences, we encourage students to imagine how these technologies can be used for creative and scientific purposes. It is the interdisciplinary nature of these events that prove to be most effective because it allows dancers to view themselves as scientists opening a new world of study. Enjoy this dance science video!

Lesson materials are hosted https://www.zaferioulab.com/outreach to facilitate spreading dance NBDs!  

Triceps: https://youtu.be/UeGzRi1lebA
Biceps: https://youtu.be/hgOOr8Ba4lQ
Dance science video: https://vimeo.com/516831800
Here: https://www.zaferioulab.com/outreach

Scott Landry, PhD, School of Kinesiology and Director of the John MacIntyre Motion Laboratory of Applied Biomechanics (mLAB), Acadia University

I participate in NBD to introduce young students to the fascinating world of biomechanics and to the sophisticated yet “fun” technologies we use to study human movement. But I also do it to share relatable stories about the impactful work being carried out by colleagues and friends throughout Canada and beyond. I am inspired to see how inquisitive young students are about the application of biomechanics in developing footwear, for example or about the technologies used to study joint replacement or osteoarthritis, a debilitating disease that many of these students see their parents or grandparents coping with on a daily basis. Each visiting student can relate some aspect of their life to biomechanics, whether it be a previous injury or how their muscles produce the movements required for their favorite activities. Fun competitions are an important aspect of NBD for us and we enjoy seeing youngsters competing with themselves and their teachers in activities (eg, counter movement jumps, reaction drills) that are able to be quantified with instruments within our lab. NBD is a very important initiative that not only introduces young students to the wide breadth of research in our field, but just as importantly, introduces these students to the strong sense of family and community that has been established within our various biomechanics societies worldwide over the years.

Paul DeVita, PhD, is Director of the Biomechanics Laboratory and Leroy T. Walker Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. He is Past-President of the American Society of Biomechanics and a leader in The Biomechanics Initiative which hosts National Biomechanics Day.

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