May 10, 2022 – DENTON – As a woman working in biomechanics, Texas Woman’s doctoral candidate Noelle Tuttle is dedicated to the outreach for and education of more women in the field, especially minorities who have had little to no exposure. Thanks to grants from the Biomechanics Initiative, she was able to further that mission by co-hosting virtual and in-person events in Denton and Ecuador to inspire future practitioners and researchers.
For the past few years, TWU biomechanics and motor behavior graduate students have participated in National Biomechanics Day (NBD), an annual event designed to introduce high school students to the field of biomechanics. Biomechanics, the study of mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms, is a relatively new field of science, so many high school students have not heard of it and do not realize that it is an option for a career.
In order to change that, Tuttle, for the second consecutive year, applied for and received a Women in Biomechanics Outreach through National Biomechanics Day Grant to co-host with the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS) a virtual demonstration of biomechanics in action for Krum High School on April 6. She purchased and sent supplies for the students to participate and also included commemorative items such as magnets, stickers and TWU and Rosalind Franklin promotional materials.
The two-hour event had students interacting and learning about levers, center of mass, balance, gait and motion capture. They went on a lever scavenger hunt, did yoga, explored TikTok trends and watched a demonstration about the various uses of motion capture equipment.
Overall, 53 students and three faculty participated, with 66% female participation, based on survey results. Participants were from all high school grades, with the highest percentage being in their junior year. From the event, 95% said they left knowing more about biomechanics, and 44% said they would consider a career in biomechanics.
Part of the grant funds will also enable Tuttle to attend the European Society of Biomechanics conference this summer in Portugal.
But Tuttle did not stop there. She was able to take her mission internationally this year with an additional LatinX in Biomechanics Outreach through National Biomechanics Day Grant awarded to TWU biomechanics alumnus Marco Avalos, MD, PhD ’20, and his team at Rosalind Franklin. The grant was used to purchase supplies, as well as cover costs for Tuttle to travel to the Universidad de las Americas (UDLA) in Ecuador, where the event was hosted and co-sponsored with TWU and Rosalind Franklin.
Ecuador had never hosted an NBD event, so this was the first one ever held in the country.
“Biomechanics is not well known in the country, so it was important to bring field knowledge to high schoolers there,” said Tuttle. “Dr. Avalos is from Ecuador, so it was a way for him to bring home biomechanics as a way to introduce science students to a new potential career as well. ”
Over the course of two days, April 13-14, Tuttle and her partners taught 261 high school students and approximately 15 high school teachers, with assistance from 20 UDLA physiotherapy students and their mentor, Yadira Gordon, about velocity components, gait, balance, center of mass, range of motion and motion capture. Students received a mini lesson for each topic and then performed a broad range of activities, including walking / running at different cadences, walking challenges (tandem walk, eyes closed, head rotation), yoga, TikTok trends and challenging balance challenges, using goniometers and tests for generalized joint laxity and the use of motion capture cameras and force plates.
“This was our biggest and most well organized event to date,” said Tuttle. “The attendees had a great time, and we were able to accomplish our goal of getting more high school students interested in a career in biomechanics.”
Based on survey results, 83% of the student participants were Latin or Hispanic, 96% said they left knowing more about biomechanics, and 79% said they would consider a future career in biomechanics.
Those results are exactly why Tuttle continues to create NBD events, knowing the hard work will all be worth it in the end.
“I am very passionate about this outreach program since it is a way to expose students to biomechanics at a younger age, and it is a great avenue to reach minority groups in the field,” she said. “This year, we were able to work on grants that target young women and LatinX community members. These groups are underrepresented in the biomechanics field, so introducing the topic to high school students allows them to know of a new and exciting career option before reaching the later years of college. I also believe women bring a different perspective to this male-dominated field and can create new and exciting research projects when given the opportunity. My goal is to make sure these young women know that there is a place for them in biomechanics, and NBD and TWU give me the platform to spread that message. ”