Category Archives: Kinesiology Courses

Breathing Life into the Classroom! A Story About Respiratory Function by KIP Undergrad Lily Hart

KIP 1500 Students Build Mechanical Biped
Students in Dr. Elmer’s KIP 1500 class build a mechanical quadruped to demonstrate the relationship between locomotion and respiration.

Freshman students in Dr. Steven Elmer‘s KIP 1500 course, Foundations of Kinesiology, recently completed a unique assignment to learn how the lungs and respiratory systems of animals work. Students worked in small groups to build three-dimensional animal models to demonstrate how the lungs function during movement. Groups built models of either a kangaroo (bipedal mobility model) or a horse (quadrupedal mobility model). Students were able to find most of the parts they needed to construct their animal models in local hardware stores.

“Collecting all the parts was hard, because it was not entirely clear as to what exact size and dimensions we needed,” explains Erin Seppala, a student in Dr. Elmer’s Foundations of Kinesiology class.

KIP 1500 Students Build Mechanical Biped
One group’s mechanical model of a bipedal kangaroo

All students used the same model to construct their animal’s “lung.” A syringe served as the thoracic cavity, and a balloon was tied inside the syringe to serve as the lung. A plastic tube was then connected to serve as the trachea. The rubber end of the syringe’s plunger worked as the diaphragm muscle (the major muscle for inspiration, or drawing air into the lungs).

Once the animals were complete, students manipulated their models to observe how hopping and running affects breathing. “I learned that animals can have different and unique ways of breathing,” explained Robert Dwyer, a student in the class.

“I learned that animals can have different and unique ways of breathing.” Robert Dwyer, student in KIP 1500

By using the three-dimensional models they built in the classroom, students found that kangaroos exert less energy to breathe when hopping than when standing still. Rather than relying on contraction of the diaphragm muscle to move air into and out of the lungs (also called “inspiration” and “expiration”), air is pulled into the lungs and pushed back out of the lungs as the internal organs “flop” within the kangaroo’s body during the hopping movement.

KIP 1500 Students Build Mechanical Biped
One group’s completed quadruped model of a horse

By manipulating the legs of the horse model, students observed how this moved air into and out of the lungs. For example, when the forelimbs were stretched forward this helped to increase the volume of the thoracic cavity, decrease thoracic pressure, and aid in inspiration. When the forelimbs struck the ground and the hind limbs moved forward this facilitated a decrease in the volume of the thoracic cavity and a decrease in thoracic pressure, aiding expiration.

Students not only investigated how the lungs and respiratory system work but they also learned the importance of good group communication and problem solving. Students were reminded that when things get hard, it’s important to remember to just have fun with the project. Several groups emphasized that the activity had helped them to learn how to problem solve and improvise as a team when something didn’t go the way they had planned.

KIP 1500 Students Build Mechanical Biped
Students with another completed quadruped model

“Building a model using parts helped us to visualize and understand the unique way horses and kangaroos breathe in accordance with their athletic ability,” group members Sarah Dix and Sarah Miller explained.

This hands-on activity was inspired by two papers published in the journal Advances in Physiology Education (Giuliodori et al., 2009, 2010). Dr. Stephen DiCarlo of Michigan State University, a coauthor of both papers, was able to mentor Dr. Elmer on the use of these physical models in the classroom to promote active student learning.

Here are links to the articles describing the horse respiration model and the kangaroo respiration model that the students built in their class.


This is an edited version of an original story by KIP undergraduate student Lily Hart. 


Giuliodori, M. J., Lujan, H. L., Briggs, W. S., & DiCarlo, S. E. (2009). A model of locomotor-respiratory coupling in quadrupeds. 33(4), 315-318. doi:10.1152/advan.00057.2009

Giuliodori, M. J., Lujan, H. L., Janbaih, H., & DiCarlo, S. E. (2010). How does a hopping kangaroo breathe? , 34(4), 228-232. doi:10.1152/advan.00050.2010

KIP Students Travel to Present at Annual ACSM and MSGC Conferences

KIP students and Assistant Professor Dr. Steven Elmer at the MSGC Conference in Ann Arbor, MI.
From left to right, top row: Jeremy Bigalke (MS), Dr. Steven Elmer, Alex Gabe (MS), Derek Verbrigghe (MS), Hannah Cunningham (MS), Thomas Bye (MS), Benjamin Cockfield (Undergrad), Kevin Phillips (PhD); bottom row: Abby Sutherland (Undergrad), Jana Hendrickson (Undergrad), Stephen Hook (MS), Kelvyn Van Laarhoven (MS).

Twelve KIP students, including undergraduate, Masters, PhD and DPT students, recently had the opportunity to travel downstate with Assistant Professor Dr. Steven Elmer to attend and present their research at two regional academic conferences.

On Friday November 9, students attended the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in Grand Rapids, MI. Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student Alicia Denherder from Central Michigan University’s MTU satellite DPT program gave a presentation of her research on exercise with blood flow restriction after total knee replacement or reconstruction.

Three KIP undergraduate students, Abby Sutherland, Jana Hendrickson and Benjamin Cockfield represented Michigan Tech in the annual ACSM Jeopardy competition against students from twenty other universities. They finished the competition as one of the top ten competitors.

Aerial view of MSGC poster presentation session at the University of Michigan on Saturday, November 10, 2018. KIP students shared their research with fellow students and colleagues at the 2018 MSGC annual conference.

On Saturday, students continued their journey to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to attend the 2018 annual Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) conference. This conference highlights research by aspiring students, academics, industry leaders and community members related to space and NASA strategic interests.

In addition to their annual conference, the MSGC awards annual undergraduate and graduate fellowships for research aimed at advancing our knowledge and understanding of space. KIP PhD student Kevin Phillips and Masters student Thomas Bye were among a total of fifty MSGC award recipients who presented at the conference last weekend.

“We are unsure of how [liquid cooling garments worn by astronauts in space] influence the mental workload of human brain activation, or the perception of fatigue during physical activity.” -Kevin Phillips, PhD candidate, KIP

Integrative Physiology PhD candidate Kevin Phillips presented research funded through an MSGC Graduate Fellowship where he investigated the effects of water immersion on pre-frontal cortex activation in humans.

KIP PhD student Kevin Phillips presents his research on the effects of thermal alteration on human brain activation.

“Astronauts wear liquid cooling garments in space to help with their body’s thermoregulation,” explains Phillips. “However, we are unsure of how this influences the mental workload of human brain activation, or the perception of fatigue during physical activity. I use a variety of techniques in my research to develop a better understanding of the effects of thermal alterations on the human brain.”

“It was wonderful to get both my first and second oral presentations under my belt.” -Thomas Bye, MS Student, KIP

Kinesiology MS student Thomas Bye also presented MSGC Graduate Fellowship-funded research at the conference on Saturday. He has been examining the impact of respiratory muscle fatigue during space flight.

“Astronauts are always moving in space, primarily with their arms,” Bye explains. “In order to stabilize themselves in micro-gravity they must use their upper-body muscles. This causes muscles such as the diaphragm to become tired and their breathing and performance to become compromised during space walks.”

MS student Thomas Bye presents his MSGC Fellowship-funded research on the impact of respiratory muscle fatigue on human performance during space flight.

All twelve KIP students either presented posters or gave oral presentations at the MSGC conference. Some, like Phillips and Bye, gave presentations on their independent research projects.

“In order to stabilize themselves in micro-gravity [astronauts] must use their upper-body muscles. This causes muscles such as the diaphragm to become tired and their breathing and performance to become compromised during space walks.” – Thomas Bye, MS student, KIP

Masters students gave presentations based on projects they had completed for their Advanced Exercise Physiology (KIP 5000) class this Fall. MS students Hannah Cunningham and Jeremy Bigalke presented their analysis of the new Mars extra-vehicular suit, and its implications for affecting human metabolism, the walk-to-run transition, and its theorized cost of transport.

MS students Hannah Cunningham (center) and Jeremy Bigalke (right) present a poster detailing their analysis of the new Mars extra-vehicular suit and it’s implications on human performance.

Undergraduate students Abby Sutherland and Jana Hendrickson gave presentations regarding their experiences in kinesiology-based K-12 outreach projects. One undergraduate student, Benjamin Cockfield, presented results obtained from exploring effective techniques of teaching physiology – specifically, skeletal muscle contraction.

“I began by improving the current muscle contraction model used in the undergraduate anatomy and physiology lab course to include several key molecular structures that were omitted in previous models,” Cockfield explains. “We also wanted to determine if adding a stair climbing activity would help improve real-world understanding of muscle contraction – specifically eccentric, or lengthening, muscle contraction.”

Undergraduate students Abby Sutherland (left) and Jana Hendrickson present their poster on kinesiology-based K-12 Outreach in local schools.

Cockfield and his team implemented the stair climbing activity in half of the anatomy and physiology lab sessions, and had students in all lab sessions complete surveys to determine the students’ perception of the effectiveness of the activity in helping to improve their understanding of muscle contraction. Results showed an improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms of muscle contraction with Cockfield’s improved teaching model.

KIP Masters students pose in front of Michigan State University’s Spartan statue. From left to right: Derek Verbrigghe, Alex Gabe, Stephen Hook, Kelvyn Van Laarhoven, Thomas Bye, Hannah Cunningham, Jeremy Bigalke.

In addition to the two academic conferences attended, masters students from the KIP 5000 class had an opportunity to visit with faculty at Michigan State University during their trip. Specifically, students met with Dr. Erica Wehrwein and Dr. Stephen DiCarlo in MSU’s Department of Physiology and Dr. Christopher Kuenze in the Department of Kinesiology. Students were able to tour research labs, ask questions, and meet students and research staff in each department; an invaluable networking opportunity for these young students.

“The trip was a blast,” says KIP Masters student Thomas Bye. “It was wonderful to get both my first and second oral presentations under my belt. I got lots of great feedback, had good discussions, and even got to have pizza with the legendary Dr. DiCarlo.”

Our students would like to thank the Graduate Student Government, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, Dr. Elmer’s research laboratory, and the MSGC for supporting their travel and helping to make this experience possible.

KIP Students at Midwest ACSM conference in Grand Rapids, MI. From top left: Dr. Steven Elmer, Stephen Hook (MS), Ben Cockfield (undergrad), Thomas Bye (MS), Kevin Phillips (PhD), Jeremy Bigalke (MS), Kelvyn Van Laarhoven (undergrad), Derek Verbrigghe (MS), Alex Gabe (MS), Alicia Denherder (DPT), Jana Hendrickson (undergrad), Abby Sutherland (undergrad) and Hannah Cunningham (MS).

Intro to Epidemiology Offered for Spring 2017

EpidemioloKammgy, what is it?  With the addition of Dr. Kelly Kamm, we will finally be able to offer students the opportunity to learn all about it.

Dr. Kamm joins the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology and The Department of Biological Sciences as a research scientist with a specialty in epidemiology and community health.

She will teach a Intro to Epidemiology course for the Spring 2017 semester.  Any undergraduate or graduate student with an interest in various professional schools including medical, PA, and PT schools are encouraged to take her course.

 Intro to Epidemiology  (EH 4990)
MWF, 12:05 – 12:55 pm

Course DescriptionThis course is an introduction to the principles and methods of epidemiology to understand the distribution and determinants of health in a population. Course topics will include basic statistics used in epidemiologic studies, study design, sources and impact of error. We will use current examples to explore the use of epidemiologic data to address public health problems.
Credits: 3.0 
Pre-Requisite(s): BL 2020 and BL 2021

201701 Intro to Epidemiolgy EH 4990 02201701 Intro to Epidemiolgy EH 4990 02

A Peak inside EH4510 – Strength & Conditioning

Every year, Strength and Conditioning Coach and KIP Instructor Matt Thome, invites guest lecturer Dr. Bill Harrison or Ryan Harrison from the company, Slow the Game Down, to speak in his Strength and Conditioning (EH4510) class.   Dr. Harrison’s lecture focuses on how the eye can be used as a tool to train the brain in specific ways.

Following this guest lecture, students participate in a practical class session.  The practical session allows students the opportunity to try some of the “brain training” drills used to enhance an athlete’s focus, visual acuity,and decision making skills.  This is always a fun class session, especially when students time the drills and compete against each other.

*This class will be offered again for Fall 2016.  For more information about the class click here EH4510 or contact our KIP department with questions.

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