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Biomechanics Day hits the mark

Students push their limits on the Grunt 3000 - a rugby specific dynamometer which measures force.

More than 1000 secondary school students took part in National Biomechanics Day last month, with Massey University and New Zealand leading the way.

The global movement, which started in the United States, aims to teach students about biomechanics by using hands-on experiential learning activities. The event has become so popular it is now being celebrated by thousands of students and teachers around the world, including Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom. New Zealand was the first country to celebrate National Biomechanics Day on April 11, with events held on all three of Massey’s campuses, and at other university and polytechnic sites around the country.

Kipper the beagle takes part in a demonstration on the Manawatū campus.

Another successful event

The project, led by Dr Sarah Shultz from the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, is a collaboration between Auckland University of Technology, University of Auckland, University of Waikato, University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, and NMIT. It is part of the government’s A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri/Te Mahara project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Unlocking Curious Minds Contestable Fund.

“It was an awesome day. I was so pleased yet again this year with how it went,” Dr Shultz says. “The Big Experiment, where we collected live data from students was amazing. It’s a great way to collect data! Students were given the opportunity to complete a simple jump task while wearing cutting edge wearable technology. The data was then uploaded to a graph – as the day went on, more and more data was added. More than 400 students took part in this experiment, so we are looking forward to analysing the results.”

Dozens of volunteers made the day possible, but Dr Shultz says it was also the multi-college collaboration across Massey University that gave the students the best exposure to biomechanics. “The College of Health and College of Sciences were the backbone of our events. Special mention must go to Dr Frazer Noble, Dr Bob Colborne, Dr Phil Fink and Dr Matt Barnes, who gave up a lot of time to help make the day memorable for students. We had students programming robots, attending workshops from Weta Digital, learning about 3D printing, even a dog on a treadmill!”

Students in Auckland spent time with the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology.

Making NBD accessible to everyone

National Biomechanics Day also unfolded online during the day for students who could not physically attend one of the 13 sites around New Zealand. “This year, we really tried to build on our off-site engagement. We continued live streaming from some of sites, but also created a Biomechanics Scavenger Hunt on social media. Students had to perform a series of biomechanics-related tasks and document their journey using videos and photos. Once the tasks were finished, schools uploaded their footage back to our Facebook event page to get their completion time, with a leader board keeping track of how the schools did.”

Dr Shultz hopes to grow the day even further next year.

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Learning the mechanics of biomechanics

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