People: Zoe Self Davies, Jim Usherwood, Grzegorz Sobota

The inspiration behind this project stems from a wider incentive to engage the public, school children in particular, in the field of biomechanics. Specifically, there is a gender disparity between disciplines studied at A-level and above, which sees more females going into biology and more males into maths and engineering. As such, there is an opportunity to engage school children in biomechanics, allowing them to make the link between biology, physics and maths, one which is not often made clear in schools.

Team members (l-r): Tatjana Hubel, Zoe Self, Lauren Sumner-Rooney, Grzegorz Sobota, Jeff Rankin

Stepping Into Science gives members of the public the opportunity to take part in real research via a large scale data collection, making use if the lab’s force plate array. This data collection enables the researchers to investigate the mechanics of human walking in relation to leg length, age and sex, while giving participants an opening to learn about the project through interaction with the experts. Participants take part by walking across the force plates at a range of speeds and then discuss the data from their trial with the scientists, engaging in a fusion of biology physics and maths. A link to the theory behind the experiment can be found here.

Science in action at The Big Bang Fair 2016

Jim Usherwood’s team are also in the early stages of developing a series of lessons and activities for schools which engage pupils in the mechanics of walking and build up to a simplified inverted pendulum model. The ‘Wellcome To Walking’ lessons require no specialist equipment and make use of a combination of practical tasks, promoting student-led investigation, and basic theory, as well as building on skills in experimental design, data collection and presentation. The project is at an early stage and we are currently trialling the lessons in local schools with whom we already have a link but if you would like to know more, please contact Dr Zoe Self on zself@rvc.ac.uk.

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