Connections for the STEM Classroom
Using Team Research as a Tool for High Impact Learning
Steve Glass, PhD Professor of Exercise Science, Department of Movement Science
Research is nothing new in a variety of settings, be it graduate, undergraduate or even high school. However the most common model for involving students is to recruit one student to assist the researcher, providing an invaluable experience for learning the critical thinking skills that comes with research. As a professor of an Exercise Science program with 1,000 undergraduate students, the single-student model just does not provide the number of opportunities for students interested. This year I intentionally chose a research question and study design that may provide opportunity for as many as 30-40 undergraduate students!
The study: I was contacted by an entrepreneur to study a water filled strength training device. The device is designed to create an unstable load as the individual lifts, forcing core muscles to compensate. Most of us have used an unstable device we stand on (BoSu ball, wobble board), but this was a novel instability device that you actually lifted. In addition, the device could vary the amount of water “slosh” so the instability could be varied. I designed a study using surface electrodes to examine the degree of muscle activation of four muscles during exercise. Due to the number of muscles studied and the number of lift variations, I created three, separate studies that examined: the bicep curl and core muscles, the leg extension and core, and the overhead squat.
Involvement :Before the study began (but after research approvals), I had interested students volunteer to be a part of two months of pilot testing, where they were introduced to the technologies of electromyography and the procedures of the study. When their proficiency was at the standards I needed, we began to recruit subjects. While the study is not complex, there was need for a variety of individuals to assist with a number of duties: 1. spotting the lifts to ensure safety 2. preparing the subjects’ skin and applying the electrodes 3. performing initial screenings and health evaluation as well as strength testing, 4. recording the EMG data and marking the movements (lift and lower transitions) 5. data processing (signal filtering, rectification and integration). Since subjects are scheduled close together, student researchers need to be prepared for all of the tasks, so that work can be distributed. Currently I have 12-15 students assisting with the first study, as well as a research intern preparing for graduate school. This fall the second study starts, and another group of researchers will be recruited to assist. Most are doing this for no college credit, but rather their desire for involvement in research. To promote the team aspect of the research group, I am purchasing shirts the students will wear on data collection days. The students design them.
Dissemination: Our initial group will not have anything beyond preliminary data to present, but they will present 3 posters at our University “Student Scholars Day”. One group will present the techniques for EMG sampling (skin prep, and data acquisition). Another will present on the data signal processing techniques used. The research intern will present any preliminary data available at the time of the research day. In subsequent semesters I will have an expanding group of students and data to present at a variety of local, regional and national meetings. I will pursue peer reviewed publication in major exercise science journals for my own dissemination work.
In summary, this is a research project that could be completed with a dedicated group of four, but by using a large group, I was able to involve students in the same range of experiences, while creating a more empowered group of researchers that have worked very well together. I hope to continue the model as I gain approval of additional research projects.
Page last modified March 5, 2014