Skip to main content

A new outreach project with Athens Drive’s Spinal Muscle Atrophy Camp

June 21, 2023

This year we started up a new partnership, leading a session at a camp focused on spinal muscle atrophy (SMA) being held for incoming freshmen at Athens Drive High School. We designed an activity that connected our lab’s biomechanics focus to SMA by looking at scoliosis, and how variations in spinal muscle strength can affect curvature. We used a pool noodle as a model of the spine and inserted dowel rods that students could connect exercise bands (‘muscles’) to. We loved coming up with a new activity, and we hope the kids had fun too!

To start, we asked them what ‘biomechanics’ is and generated a word cloud from their responses. We love how many of them used the word ‘help’ in their explanation!

A snippet of the worksheet that Jason created to guide the activity

National Biomechanics Day 2023 (aka MSEN Day)

April 25, 2023

This year, rather than hosting our own event, we were asked by the organizers of the NC Math and Science Education Network (MSEN) to do an expo event as part of their annual MSEN Day. This event brought over 300 students from 6th through 12th grade from across the state to NC State’s campus for a day of competition, fun, and science! About half of these students rotated through our expo, having time to browse through our wide array of biomechanics-focused activities. Due to pre-planned travel, pending exams, and the event date having to be rescheduled, much of our group was unavailable to help. But Jacque, Jason, Katie, and Kyla were awesome enough to help out and did a great job engaging the students with some biomechanics.

You can learn more about the MSEN program here and National Biomechanics Day here.

Breaking Bones: we used a hand-crank 3 point bending system to show how different materials might have different properties, and how we can measure things like failure.

Kyla demonstrates how we can use a laser doppler flowmeter to measure blood flow.

A student tries to lift a pole with a 5lb bag of flower taped to it at different distances from the fulcrum to demonstrate the idea of muscle moment arm, and how that distance affects strength (force). 

There were also plenty of non-OML-led activities for everyone to check out

These 3D stacking puzzles help students think about how we can make a 3D model from 2D images

A student checks out an interactive arm model to learn how muscles work together to move the arm

Demonstrating a powered exoskeleton that can be controlled with an app

Group photo

Group photo with Jacque!

National Biomechanics Day 2022

April 25, 2022

Last Friday we celebrated National Biomechanics Day at NC State. We missed the official National Biomechanics Day (April 6) due to travel and other obligations, so we opted to hold our event a few weeks later. But we’re pretty sure the students didn’t mind.

This year we decided to re-envision the event from what we’ve done in the past. In previous years, we’ve had an expo-style event with labs leading short demos or activities related to their research. These events had 100-200 attendees. But this year we wanted to foster more meaningful connections with attendees, so we pared it down to 35 students and guided them through an engineering challenge. We chose the one from Teach Engineering made by Biomedical Engineers at UVA (find it here). It’s the year 2050 and Bill was hit by a car. A section of his bone, muscle, and skin were damaged beyond repair and need to be totally replaced by 3D bioprinting. The students have been hired as biomedical engineers to help print bone, muscle, and skin grafts for Bill.

We divided the students into groups of four, where they first brainstormed the problem, reading over information on their tissue type and thinking about how they could print it. They then broke into groups, assembled their bioprinters, and then got to making solutions.

Showing off their designs:

The amazing Plaster of Paris wranglers. By the end of the day, none of their clothing had been spared from the wrath of Plaster of Paris powder!

At the end of the day, the groups all shared out their designs. We also had a teacher help us award a “superlative” to each group. The winners included:

  • Perseverance in the face of glue that wouldn’t stick
  • Most laughing
  • Runniest plaster masterpiece
  • Most creative
  • Muscle masterpiece
  • Fantastic femur

Group Photo:

Sandra and Steph graduate from the IMPACTS program

June 26, 2020

Sandra and Stephanie recently completed a year-long training offered through UNC’s Morehead Planetarium. The Inspiring Meaningful Programs and Communication Through Science (IMPACTS) Program is a state-wide public science communication training and outreach initiative. IMPACTS is designed to train scientists in public communication using a nationally acclaimed curriculum along with enabling them to practice and hone their science communication skills. Applicants are selected from scientists across the state.

There was a virtual graduation ceremony, and both received a signature tie-dyed lab coat.


January 25, 2020

A local elementary school, Laurel Park, recently held a STEAM (STEM+ART) night for their students and we gladly participated. It was a welcome challenge, given that most of our previous outreach has been targeted at high school-aged students. We designed two activities that the kids were pretty excited about:

  • X-Ray zoo: We asked kids to match the animal to its x-ray to explore how an animal’s physical appearance mirrors features of its skeleton.
  • Lego Modeling: how can we use Lego bricks to investigate computer assisted modeling, and why does resolution matter?

Catalyst Program Visit

December 15, 2019

We recently were lucky to be visited by an amazing group of high schoolers with Joann Blumenfeld’s Catalyst program, which aims to provide opportunities for students with disabilities interested in STEM. We were blown away by the excitement and some of the great questions from this amazing group.

National Biomechanics Day 2019

April 16, 2019

Our lab, along with other labs in the Biomedical Engineering department and other labs within the College of Engineering recently hosted the fourth annual National Biomechanics Day! We brought about 150 students from local high schools to Centennial Campus to learn more about biomechanics, engineering, and why they should come to NC State for college! We took tons of pictures, and NC State’s Bulletin came to talk to people and take pictures. We’ll share their article and photos once we have it, but here are some photos to hold you over in the meantime! You can see more on Jacque’s Twitter Feed. 

National Biomechanics Day Awards

June 20, 2018

Our lab and department has won not one but TWO awards for our National Biomechanics Day efforts!

First of all, Stephanie and Maggie won the Biomechanics Art competition. Check out their awesome graphic:

Also, we won one of the 2018 Greatest Impact awards for our event in April. Congratulations to Nicholas, who put the entry together, and everyone who helped us to have a successful event. Check out the Facebook post to see the award announcement.

National Biomechanics Day 2018

April 12, 2018

Yesterday was our favorite day of the year, once again! No, not Christmas (though we do love presents)… it was National Biomechanics Day! We had nearly 250 students and teachers come visit us at NC State. Due to having so many visitors, we split the event between Engineering Building 3 (our home) and the nearby Hunt Library. The visiting students had a great time, and we like to think they learned something. The scientists also had a great time getting students more excited about biomechanics.

We can’t wait until 2019!  In the meantime, check out some photos of our lab in action.