MSOE’s new Biomechanics Laboratory features a state-of-the-art BTS motion capture system, which integrates ground reaction force data, muscle activity and motion data to analyze movement, and has students jumping up and down.

Within the lab, students can measure movement with the help of high-speed infrared cameras, reflective markers and a sophisticated scale. A student will put reflective markers on their feet, legs and hips, and then jump on the scale. The reflections from the markers are picked up by the cameras to measure angles, while the scale measures force. The results are depicted on a screen and computer within the lab, providing instant data.

“Students can not only conduct experiments to characterize motions and joint angles associated with movements, but they can also analyze the kinetics of those movements and determine forces and power associated with those motions,” explained Dr. Jeff LaMack, associate professor and biomedical engineering program director. “By collecting electromyography data, they will also be able to study how muscle activity associates with those forces.”

The new lab is an asset in biomechanics courses as it provides hands-on learning experiences to teach the fundamental concepts of human movement. It also enables students to broaden the scope and scale of their senior design projects.

“Biomedical engineering projects often involve design of devices to address problems associated with rehabilitation, assistive devices and sports biomechanics. Our students will now be able to work on more types of biomechanics projects and go further with their designs,” said LaMack. “For example, students working on a project to improve the design of walking canes can quantify the performance of their designs by analyzing the gait of subjects using their cane designs. As another example, students will be better equipped to design devices to optimize athletic performance or to assist in tracking recovery from sport injury. The possibilities for design projects in these areas are endless.”

Mobile student desks and modular equipment layouts within the lab allow classes to transition directly from theoretical concepts in a lecture-style setting to active demonstrations and student participation with the motion capture system.

“Because the system integrates traditional biomechanics measurements with simultaneous acquisition of muscle activity data, students will be able to draw connections between theory and application of muscle physiology. Overall, the system is very hands-on, demands student engagement and is ideal for solving real-world problems, all of which are essential elements of experiential learning.”

A new Biomechanics Club also is in development, which plans to use the laboratory to get a closer look at athletes’ performances. Micah Overley, biomedical engineering student, decided to start the club to get hands-on experience with the new lab while also learning how athletes perform and how to make them better.

“The Biomechanics Club plans to get athletic teams in the lab to run case studies on the athletes,” said Overley. “The data will then be used for a wide variety of things such as measuring strength, looking at form/mechanics and tracking injuries and recovery.”  

Overley is a member of MSOE’s baseball team and hopes to get the team involved in the lab. “Some initial thoughts have been doing strength tests at the start and end of the season and seeing how the numbers vary. Using this data, the team will be able to track injuries or fatigue throughout the season and hopefully see what can be improved upon during the next season.”

The Biomechanics Club is in the final stages of review by Student Life and hopes to get up and running soon. LaMack and Dr. Larry Fennigkoh, biomedical engineering adjunct professor, will serve as advisors for the club. Overley and LaMack are appreciative for the immense role Fennigkoh played in the development of the Biomechanics Lab. “I’d like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of Dr. Larry Fennigkoh. His vision for this lab, ideas for laboratory design and construction efforts—all of which were driven by his passion and commitment to student learning—were essential in making this laboratory possible,” said LaMack.