USC biokinesiology students commemorate National Biomechanics Day by introducing sports science to underrepresented high school students.
BY STEPHANIE CORRAL
AFTER ATTENDING A NATIONAL BIOMECHANICS EVENT in May at the Crenshaw Family YMCA, Kaitlin Lewis, 17, says she feels inspired to learn more about the power of sports science and how it can affect athletic performance.
“I am looking to go into the medical field, so the entire experience has opened my eyes to more possibilities in the world of sport,” said Lewis, who plays rugby, golf and volleyball at Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) View Park Preparatory Charter High School.
Sponsored by the Biomechanics Initiative, National Biomechanics Day is an annual worldwide celebration of biomechanics — the mechanics behind biological and muscular activity — with the purpose of introducing high school students to this burgeoning field.
Lewis’ takeaway from the two-day event is exactly why Stephanie Guzman MS ’23 decided to apply for a LatinX in Biomechanics Outreach grant through the Biomechanics Initiative.
As a first-generation Latina, Guzman remembers how overwhelming it was to choose a career path in high school. As a result, she made it her personal goal to serve as a resource for youth in underrepresented areas who would like to pursue careers in sports science and biomechanics.
“It would greatly support the youth to be exposed to opportunities like this and to the rapidly evolving field of kinesiology and sports science,” Guzman said. “It allows them to think beyond the traditional careers and opens their options up to fields which they may not have considered.”
With the help and support of nearly a dozen USC biokinesiology students — including seven PhD students — Guzman secured a $1,000 grant from the Biomechanics Initiative to fund a National Biomechanics Day event for more than 20 View Park students.
“Even though my name was on the application, it was definitely a collective effort from students all across the department, from the application process all the way to the execution of the event,” Guzman said.
The greatest challenge Guzman faced was scheduling the event and communicating with everyone involved.
Fortunately, Guzman had the help of USC PhD students Maxfield Munk and Malcolm Jones — who served as liaisons between USC and Crenshaw Family YMCA — throughout the event’s planning stage.
In the end, to ensure students went home at a reasonable hour, the five-hour event was divided in half and held after school on May 5 and 6.
“We created the event to be highly interactive and interesting for the students, as it is a lot of information to take in,” said Guzman. “The last thing we wanted was for them to be bored.”
As an introduction to biomechanics, the first day featured presentations on prosthetics, ultrasound technology and electromyography (EMG).
At the EMG station, Munk and two other PhD students showed students how to evaluate and record the electrical activity in muscles.
“We had enough EMGs so that we could put multiple units on students that they could attach on themselves,” Munk said. “They seemed to be really into it.”
The event’s second day focused on the technology used to measure movement.
Students were divided into smaller groups and rotated through four stations featuring force plates, instrumented baseball, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) motion capture system and OpenGo insoles.
At the OpenGo insoles station, students were shown a printed graph of the force patterns of several movements that were consecutively performed. Following a presentation, students guessed the movement that was being performed based on the force pattern.
Students also had the chance to use the insoles themselves and match specific TikTok dances — the Griddy, Swag Surf and the Jerk — to the force pattern and insole recording that was displayed on a screen.
Prizes from the shoe store Jumpman LA were used to encourage engagement through friendly competitions at each station.
“The students were initially reserved but as the program progressed, their excitement and participation definitely increased,” Guzman said. “Overall, they seemed very curious and excited.”
Lewis, who had never heard of biomechanics before, enjoyed learning about the power of science and how it relates to the body and performance.
“I loved how fun the facilitators made the overall experience,” Lewis said. “They made it fun but also added challenge, and as an athlete, I do love to be challenged.”
The Biomechanics Initiative grant was used toward purchasing meals for the participating students, which was integrated into the event’s programming as a mini lesson on nutrition.
Students received carb- and protein-based meals from local eatery Post and Beam, along with an infographic that highlighted pre- and post-workout nutrition tips.
“Choosing a local restaurant allowed us to not only support a small business but to make it accessible to the students since their school is located in Crenshaw,” Guzman said.
Munk thinks it is important for students to step outside of the lab and participate in community outreach events to connect with others and raise awareness about biomechanics.
“We are trying to do something that we think helps the world,” Munk said. “You just want to make sure that people are aware that they have the opportunity to do this kind