Barn host to new biomechanics lab

The College’s first of its kind biomechanics lab got its first run through Oct. 24

with 9-year-old Kobe Bowser the guinea pig.

Markers reflect the camera flash while Assistant Professor Brad Bowser (at computer) prepares his 9-year-old son, Kobe, to do a test run in the new Biomechanics Lab in the Intramural Building. The first test run of the equipment in the former handball court was Oct. 24.

The fully functional biomechanics lab is set up in a former racquetball court on the west end of the Intermural Building, the historic Barn where SDSU played basketball from 1918 to 1973. The 20-foot by 40-foot lab was set up by Kobe’s father, Brad, who arrived at SDSU in August 2011 with directions to teach biomechanics and establish a lab. It and a smaller lab set up at about the same time at the University of South Dakota are the only biomechanics labs in the state. While the lab looks like it could still host a racquetball game without too much effort, that won’t be the case. The hardwood court has been covered with rubber mats. Eight cameras have been mounted on metal piping that has been fastened to the court walls. In the center of the court is the
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buried treasure of the new lab — three different force plates. “There’s not another lab within the state of South Dakota that has the equipment we have,” Assistant Professor Bowser says. The final piece of equipment for the lab was a $25,000 wireless electromyography system, which registers muscle activation during functional movements and then transmits the data wirelessly to a computer. Muscle activation is synchronized with the motion capture and ground reaction force data to provide a comprehensive analysis of movement mechanics, Bowser says. A six-camera motion capture system was received in November 2011 and the force plates were received in the spring. “It’s the premier biomechanics lab in the state. All eight cameras have the capacity to capture 10,000 pictures per second. Additionally, a one-of-a-kind laser timing system provides walking or running velocity of participants in real time. The timing system is also used to trigger the start and end of a trial. By breaking a set of laser beams, the timing device triggers the cameras, force plates and EMG to turn on and stop,” Bowser says. He puts the value of the lab equipment at $150,000, a figure that would have been higher but some gear was purchased at a great discount, he said. In the equipment’s test run, Bowser taped 30 reflective markers on his son’s lower body. The cameras send out an infrared signal, which reflects off the marker and sends it back to the camera, explains Bowser, who worked with similar equipment at the University of Georgia, where he earned his doctorate. Bowser took static readings to locate anatomical points in his computer data and then sent Kobe for a run. Graduate student Paul Keiser and undergraduate Matt Wanderscheid will undertake the first structured experiment in the lab. They want to look at running mechanics for local children ages 8-12, of both healthy weight and those overweight. An aim of the study is to determine the impact of running on the joints for overweight children, Bowser says.

Dave Graves

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