Here at the University of Alberta, students enrolled in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation are required to complete a practicum in their last academic year as part of their degree. There are multiple agencies that take part in the practicum program, covering areas such as exercise rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, recreation therapy, sport administration, and research. Practicum placements give kinesiology students first-hand experience in the work field and are meant to expand on knowledge learned in lectures. In most cases, students choose an agency that complements previous work or volunteer experience, but some students may choose to explore something new. Either way, students engage in work related to their interests, and gain valuable skills from their employers. This summer, we are hosting three practicum students of which we are super lucky to have. So, let’s jump right in and find out what they have been up to!
First up, let’s meet Daria! She is a 4th year student enrolled in the Bachelor of Kinesiology Program. In the past, Daria has coached individuals with disabilities and set up Adapted Physical Activity (APA) programs and knew she would make a great fit here in the lab. Daria is majoring in APA and helping out with the Permobil project, which is currently assessing the efficacy of the SmartDrive.
The SmartDrive is a power-assist tool that attaches to a wheelchair which helps with ambulating throughout various environments. This reduces the amount of manual pushing required for a wheelchair user, which reduces shoulder strains. Additionally, it facilitates independence by allowing wheelchair users to navigate various terrains. Daria’s main role in the lab is research project coordination, involving meeting and assisting with participant onboarding. With this project, she believes data analysis will be the most challenging aspect, but is hopeful to run her own data analysis at the end of her practicum. Data is collected from the Sagitta and smart watches, which gives the lab insight on the practicality of our technology.
Additionally, the Permobil project team has collaborated with the OptiTrack and ClicknPush team (other teams researching wheelchair biomechanics and accessibility) which has broadened Daria’s research experience. The most valuable part about being in the lab for Daria is the social aspect. Working with others and learning about everyone's project ensures that time spent in the lab is never dull. The networking opportunity has been valuable and she loves talking to other practicum students and volunteers. It has been a pleasure working with Daria so far and we are grateful to have her uplifting energy in the lab! Lastly, a fun fact about Daria is that she loves working with children although she does not want any of her own until she is 35.
Next up, Allie! Like Daria, Allie is also a 4th year Bachelor of Kinesiology student majoring in Adapted Physical Activity and completing her practicum at the lab with us. When choosing her practicum, Allie was intrigued by the capabilities of the lab, and wanted to dive into research for a new experience. She found a posting that involved working with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) alongside an occupational therapist (OT). Aspiring to become an OT, Allie decided that this would be a great opportunity for her. Additionally, she was excited to choose an interdisciplinary workspace and interact with people from diverse backgrounds. As of right now, she believes the best part of the lab is the people! With all the technology in the lab, Allie has enjoyed learning new skills and participating in research.
She is currently part of the CogPro team, working with another practicum student to assist with pilot studies. Her role is to onboard participants, recruit clinicians and, assisting to run the study. Coming out of COVID, Allie anticipated that recruiting participants would be most difficult. To combat this, Allie believes it is best to focus on building excitement for these studies, honing in on how the technologies will accelerate rehabilitation for patients.
The two studies that Allie is helping pilot are ABI-AR (Acquired Brain Injuries - Augmented Reality) and SLP-VR (Speech Language Pathology - Virtual Reality). ABI-AR focuses on improving rehabilitation for patients with acquired brain injuries with the use of augmented reality. AR incorporates digital elements into the real world through a camera lens. Similarly, SLP-VR uses virtual reality to improve progress of those with speech pathologies. Unlike AR, VR completely replaces a real-life environment with a simulated one. We are really glad to have Allie in the lab helping us out and a fun fact about her is that she has been to Disneyland more than 15 times!!
Last but certainly not least, we have Annie! She is also a practicum student in her 4th year of the Bachelor in Kinesiology degree, majoring in Physical Activity and Health. Annie has a keen interest in investigating the capacity technology has to improve the future of healthcare, aligning well with the goals of the lab which made a great match for her practicum. Annie believes that technology can augment the rehabilitation process and create more accessibility in healthcare, and co-assisting running the pilot studies on the CogPro team has opened her eyes to the capability of incorporating AR and VR in clinical practice.
With ABI-AR, an interactive alien shooting game has been developed for those completing visual cognitive therapy, whereas SLP-VR uses virtual reality, allowing the user to be fully immersed in the tech as part of rehabilitating voice and speech. The goal with both of these projects is to improve client adherence to rehabilitation, by creating a more engaging and interactive form of therapy. Similarly to Allie, Annie voiced concerns about finding the desired number of participants in the post-COVID era, and is working extra hard in the clinician and participant recruitment process with Allie.
Annie also enjoys working in a highly interdisciplinary setting such as the RRL, as she values the opportunity to learn and collaborate with other members of the lab of various academic backgrounds. Always seeking new challenges for self-growth, Annie believes that the lab is a great place for her personal and professional development, and feels very unfortunate to take part. A fun fact about Annie is that she loves to cat sit and spending time at the beach. We are super lucky to have Annie in the lab for the summer and we can’t wait to see how the two projects will unfold!
We hope you enjoyed reading about Daria, Allie, and Annie just as much as we enjoy having them at the lab! They are all extremely talented and we are excited to watch them grow and expand on their skill sets. The three of them have been a huge help already and we appreciate all the hard work they have put into their projects.