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Sports and science don’t mix, right? Not if you ask biomedical engineer Cynthia Bir whose career focuses on using science and technology to keep athletes safe and to help them perform at their best.

Episode filmed live at the 2012 World Science Festival in New York CIty. The full Cool Jobs program from that year can be viewed online.

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Cynthia Bir:

Great. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to come here and talk to you about how much I love my job, because I don’t have to act to do that. So when I was little, I was very interested in science. I had the chemistry kit and my mom was always afraid I was going to blow up the house. I think she really was concerned. So I really, really loved science when I was younger.

And what I really wanted to do was become a biomedical engineer. How many people know what biomedical engineering is? Okay, a few people. Okay, that’s good. It’s a relatively new type of engineering, but it’s a fascinating type of engineering where we start to look at what the human body does and how our environment can work with it, and how we can engineer things like retinal implants and total hip replacements and things of that nature to improve our health and our wellbeing.

My main goal is try to protect everyone, so in terms of helmets, chest protectors, protective gear for shin guards and all that. We study that and we try to predict ways that we can prevent those injuries, to develop new types of helmets and things of that nature. So what I want to do is I want to bring out the infamous Skippy D to help me out with this next part. So come out.

Okay. So what I’ve done is, I’ve wired up Skippy D with our functional assessment of biomechanics system. So he has 13 sensors that I’ve put on his body. Each of these sensors has a magnet, an accelerometer and a gyroscope. So what those sensors do is they talk to each other, and then what we’ll be able to see is exactly how Skip moves in real time. So this is going to tell us exactly how his body’s moving biomechanically.

So I’ll be able to tell exactly where his joint angles are, we tell how much force he’s generating in each of his joints, everything. So this is a cool piece of technology that we use time and time again. But I think the coolest part is to have Skippy D show is how it’s done. So you go ahead and you do your thing.

Great job. I didn’t realize you were such a dancer too. And you worked up a sweat. Okay. Well, thanks a lot, Skip, for helping us out. Okay. Thank you so much.

Well, unfortunately, I only have one functional biomechanics system with me, but I have another piece of technology and I need four volunteers to come up here and help me with it, okay? So how about you right there in the white shirt?

Okay, so what we have here is a special basketball. So these have inertial motion sensors inside, and it’s going to tell us your consistency, your contact, and exactly how many times you dribble the ball. So all I need you to do is go back and forth like this and dribble the ball. Now, I’m not very good at it, obviously, right? But you guys are going to be great. So when I tell you go, I want you to pick up the balls and then start dribbling. So go ahead and pick them up, and ready, go. Okay, keep going. Okay, and we’re done. Okay, hold them and put them back on the rings. Good job.

Okay. And we’re going to score the scores right now. Is this one player one over here? One’s over here. This is one, that’s two. Okay, so player two on that one. Okay? Now we’re going to have the next two people do it. We’re going to look for the top scorer. We’re going to have a prize for the top scorer. So stand right over here. Micah and Alex, I want you to stand right over here. Just wait there, okay? Yeah, you do it as fast as you can do it back and forth. Okay? You go that? Yep? Okay. Okay, so go ahead and pick up the ball and go. Okay, we’re done. Okay, hold the balls. Good job. We’ll put them right back here on the rings. Put that right there on the ring.

So we’re scoring. Ooh, 97. Okay, so we’re going to give you … Now, this isn’t an instrumented one, but this is a 94Fifty basketball, so you get to take this home with you. Okay? Thanks so much.

So, as you can see, I get to have a lot of fun at my job, which is why I don’t have problems going to work every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And I even work a little bit over the weekend. So I want to say something special to the girls in the audience. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t become a doctor or that you can’t go into science or engineering, because you can. I’m a prime example. I wish someone would’ve told me that when I was in high school and said, “Okay, you can do this.” So don’t be discouraged at all. You guys can do it. And enjoy science, because you know what? It’s a lot of fun. So thanks so much.

Speaker 2:

Thank [inaudible 00:06:09] one more time for Cynthia Bir and for Skippy D.

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Cool Jobs: Sports Scientist Sleuth

Sports and science don’t mix, right? Not if you ask biomedical engineer Cynthia Bir whose career focuses on using science and technology to keep athletes safe and to help them perform at their best.

Episode filmed live at the 2012 World Science Festival in New York CIty. The full Cool Jobs program from that year can be viewed online.

Transcription

Cynthia Bir:

Great. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to come here and talk to you about how much I love my job, because I don’t have to act to do that. So when I was little, I was very interested in science. I had the chemistry kit and my mom was always afraid I was going to blow up the house. I think she really was concerned. So I really, really loved science when I was younger.

And what I really wanted to do was become a biomedical engineer. How many people know what biomedical engineering is? Okay, a few people. Okay, that’s good. It’s a relatively new type of engineering, but it’s a fascinating type of engineering where we start to look at what the human body does and how our environment can work with it, and how we can engineer things like retinal implants and total hip replacements and things of that nature to improve our health and our wellbeing.

My main goal is try to protect everyone, so in terms of helmets, chest protectors, protective gear for shin guards and all that. We study that and we try to predict ways that we can prevent those injuries, to develop new types of helmets and things of that nature. So what I want to do is I want to bring out the infamous Skippy D to help me out with this next part. So come out.

Okay. So what I’ve done is, I’ve wired up Skippy D with our functional assessment of biomechanics system. So he has 13 sensors that I’ve put on his body. Each of these sensors has a magnet, an accelerometer and a gyroscope. So what those sensors do is they talk to each other, and then what we’ll be able to see is exactly how Skip moves in real time. So this is going to tell us exactly how his body’s moving biomechanically.

So I’ll be able to tell exactly where his joint angles are, we tell how much force he’s generating in each of his joints, everything. So this is a cool piece of technology that we use time and time again. But I think the coolest part is to have Skippy D show is how it’s done. So you go ahead and you do your thing.

Great job. I didn’t realize you were such a dancer too. And you worked up a sweat. Okay. Well, thanks a lot, Skip, for helping us out. Okay. Thank you so much.

Well, unfortunately, I only have one functional biomechanics system with me, but I have another piece of technology and I need four volunteers to come up here and help me with it, okay? So how about you right there in the white shirt?

Okay, so what we have here is a special basketball. So these have inertial motion sensors inside, and it’s going to tell us your consistency, your contact, and exactly how many times you dribble the ball. So all I need you to do is go back and forth like this and dribble the ball. Now, I’m not very good at it, obviously, right? But you guys are going to be great. So when I tell you go, I want you to pick up the balls and then start dribbling. So go ahead and pick them up, and ready, go. Okay, keep going. Okay, and we’re done. Okay, hold them and put them back on the rings. Good job.

Okay. And we’re going to score the scores right now. Is this one player one over here? One’s over here. This is one, that’s two. Okay, so player two on that one. Okay? Now we’re going to have the next two people do it. We’re going to look for the top scorer. We’re going to have a prize for the top scorer. So stand right over here. Micah and Alex, I want you to stand right over here. Just wait there, okay? Yeah, you do it as fast as you can do it back and forth. Okay? You go that? Yep? Okay. Okay, so go ahead and pick up the ball and go. Okay, we’re done. Okay, hold the balls. Good job. We’ll put them right back here on the rings. Put that right there on the ring.

So we’re scoring. Ooh, 97. Okay, so we’re going to give you … Now, this isn’t an instrumented one, but this is a 94Fifty basketball, so you get to take this home with you. Okay? Thanks so much.

So, as you can see, I get to have a lot of fun at my job, which is why I don’t have problems going to work every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And I even work a little bit over the weekend. So I want to say something special to the girls in the audience. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t become a doctor or that you can’t go into science or engineering, because you can. I’m a prime example. I wish someone would’ve told me that when I was in high school and said, “Okay, you can do this.” So don’t be discouraged at all. You guys can do it. And enjoy science, because you know what? It’s a lot of fun. So thanks so much.

Speaker 2:

Thank [inaudible 00:06:09] one more time for Cynthia Bir and for Skippy D.