So the occupational therapist in the lab of Max Kurz, Ph.D., was in her element in March when she hosted approximately 20 Boy Scouts at the lab. The troop, from Gretna, was made up of 12- to 16-year-olds who were interested in learning more about STEM careers. With the help of lab-mate Michael Trevarrow, a graduate student in the MMI Department of Physical Therapy, Vermaas-Hannan took the opportunity to show off some of the lab's technology.
The lab tour included a demonstration of motion capture and human-to-human interface, as well as a discussion of the fields of occupational therapy, physical therapy, neuroscience and neurology.
"While the lab has done several outreach projects in the past, the Boy Scout troop visit was special," Vermaas-Hannan said. "They have talented, smart, creative and caring boys in that troop. The scouts help many people in the community through their service projects. Many of the scouts love science, and I think they all love technology -- especially video games.
"Given that 20 percent of the world will have a neurological disorder, and, that we have no cures for these disorders, I hope the lab visit inspired a few of them to study biomechanics and neuroscience," she said. "At a minimum, I hope that I introduced them to new fields and professions where they might be able to combine their talents and skills to help other people, showed them some state of the art technology, and that they had a good time."
Vermaas-Hannan said she was excited to share the lab's work, which she calls fascinating.
"Just being able to expose these kids to possibilities was wonderful," she said. "A lot of this generation are very tech focused. So being able to show them that you can have these computer skills, and you can use them to help people with disabilities, that is important work."
Troop leader Dave Lowe said the visit to MMI "was one that defines what scouting is all about -- learning new things disguised as fun."
Troop leader Dan Dormady called it "a great experience for the scouts.
"The combination of robotics and neuroscience (impulse and muscle controls) were especially interesting to them. It's rare that they get to incorporate 21st century technology into scouting," he said.
"They didn't want to leave. We had to pull them away."