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College of Health Professions Introduces Middle School to the Concepts of Biomechanics, Engineering and Robotics

Forty-eight students from Summerville’s Oakbrook Middle School recently received a first-hand demonstration in robotics courtesy of the Department of Health Sciences and Research team at MUSC’s College of Health Professions (CHP). The demonstration by MUSC's new neuro-rehabilitation team was designed to use LEGOs to introduce the students to the concepts of biomechanics, engineering and robotics used in neuro-rehabilitation. The MUSC demonstration is part of a global educational effort by the FIRST LEGO League to introduce students ages 9-16 to potential Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) related career paths. The Oakbrook students are participating in FIRST LEGO’s Body Forward competition, allowing them to explore the world of Biomedical Engineering to discover innovative ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body's potential.

The demonstration held at the MUSC College of Health Professions Research Building (77 President Street) exposed the students to multiple ways in which Biomedical Engineering can help individuals recover the ability to move after medical events such as spinal cord injury or stroke. Three stations were set up to demonstrate various concepts. In the Locomotor Rehabilitation Lab the ZeroG overhead bodyweight support system and the split-belt treadmill were demonstrated and explained by Mark Bowden, PhD, Chris Gregory, PhD and Aaron Embry, PT. At a second station Jesse Dean, PhD, gave students a demonstration of passive walking principles and how an exoskeleton can assist with leg swing in gait abnormalities. The third station, held in the Upper Extremity Function Lab, featured Cameron Nott, PhD, and Research Coordinator Jenna Nott demonstrating how three dimensional motion is measured and then used to control a LEGO robot to mimic arm movements.

The students’ visit was the outgrowth of an invitation extended by CHP Health Sciences and Research Chairman Steve Kautz, PhD, to Charleston area teams competing in the LEGO Body Forward program. Judging by the reception of the students and their teachers to the neuro-rehabilitation team’s demonstration, the visit was an unqualified success and marks a valuable MUSC outreach to inquisitive young minds in the Charleston community.

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