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National Biomechanics Day

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Poi spinning, heart and lung simulation on display at Auckland Bioengineering Institute on National Biomechanics Day

Can we capture leg motion and use it to understand calf and thigh muscle contraction? Or what about seeing inside a heart to get a glimpse of how it functions? Or observing a model of lungs as they change according to the impact of so many cigarettes smoked per day?

These are just a few of the biomechanics projects that 100 secondary school students will be exposed to at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) as part of National Biomechanics Day on 11 April.

Biomechanics is about understanding the mechanics underpinning biological systems, says ABI Senior Research Fellow Geoffrey Handsfield, who is organising ABI’s Biomechanics day and is a member of the National Biomechanics Committee.

“Biomechanics is not taught in high schools, yet it is fundamental to the experiences of humans in their everyday lives,” says Dr Handsfield. “Biomechanics incorporates many STEM disciplines, such as physics, biology, chemistry, and maths. Because it’s fun and practical, biomechanics often motivates students to become more engaged and excited about these subjects.

“We use biomechanics in everything we do, from walking to opening a door, to playing sports. It’s really fundamental to how we engage the world around us and even the history of who we are as a species. And yet, somehow, the general public is often unaware of the science of biomechanics and what it can teach you about yourself and how your body works.”

This is the second year that a National Biomechanics Day has been held in New Zealand
and it is about engaging school students with the discipline.

At the ABI this year, students will rotate through demonstrations that represent the different ways that biomechanics is done at the Institute. This will include imaging, computation, instrumentation, modeling and motion capture. One activity that will be captured is poi spinning.

“Poi is practiced all over the world, and it may hold the key to staying fit even well into old age,” says Dr Handsfield. “We demonstrate the art of poi spinning, explaining how it's good for your brain and body, and using hi-tech imaging technology to record the motions that students can create themselves with their poi.

Students will also see first-hand the environment where this research is done and will meet the postgraduate students and interns who do it.

Geoffrey Handsfield on 95bFM


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