Biomechanics Takehome Labs: Build-Your-Own Test System

Matthew Leineweber

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

San José State University

Course Name & Description: BME 167 - Introduction to Engineering Biomechanics

Project Abstract: The application of engineering mechanics to biological systems is an integral part of any Biomedical Engineering (BME) curriculum. This general application is usually termed “Biomechanics”, and consists of the analysis of bodies at rest (engineering “statics” and “strengths of materials”) and bodies in motion (engineering “dynamics”). These topics are often particularly challenging to students since they rely on advanced mathematics to describe abstract concepts, such as stress, strain, and virtual coordinate systems. The LIT-redesigned BME 167 — Introduction to Engineering Biomechanics curriculum aims to strengthen student understanding of the fundamental relationships in Biomechanics through hands-on activities. A series of “take-home” lab assignments are used to reinforce the connection between physical phenomena, mathematical relationships, and abstract concepts. Students work in groups on these take-home labs to construct their own materials testing and motion capture test systems, then use these systems to conduct experiments directly related to their traditional pencil-and-paper homework assignments. The hands-on activities introduced through the LIT-redesign will provide a stronger foundation in the basics of biomechanics, as well as an introduction to the essential hardware required for empirical data acquisition, thereby preparing the students to more easily draw connections between these fundamentals and the more complex applications in Biomedical Engineering.

Keywords/Tags: biomechanics, mechanics, take-home, data acquisition

Instructional Delivery: In-class

Pedagogical Approaches: Peer Instruction, Clickers, Take-Home Labs

About the LIT Redesign

Background on the Redesign

Course History / Background

  • BME 167 - Introduction to Engineering Biomechanics is 3-credit hour lecture-based course that typically meets twice per week, and covers aspects of engineering mechanics, including statics, dynamics, deformation of engineering materials and soft tissue.
  • It serves as a required upper-division Biomedical Engineering course, as well as a technical elective for Mechanical Engineering, and is typically taken in the Spring of the third or fourth year.
  • The course is taken in sequence with Introduction to Statics, Introduction to Materials, and Biomaterials courses. Neither the Introduction to Statics or Introduction to Materials courses contain laboratory components.
  • Student understanding is currently assessed through traditional written homeworks, exams, and a semester-long team project, but there is no laboratory-based component to facilitate hands-on application of the key concepts.

Facilities Bottleneck Issues

  • Engineering statics and dynamics courses are often particularly challenging to students since they rely on advanced mathematics to describe abstract concepts, such as stress, strain, and virtual coordinate systems. The difficulty of the subject matter is reflected in the design of traditional mechanical engineering curricula, where both “statics” and “dynamics” are each taught as dedicated, semester-long courses.
  • Biomechanics builds on this difficulty, requiring students to have a working knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and cell biology before they can begin to apply statics and dynamics concepts to biomedical systems.
  • The multidisciplinary nature of Biomedical engineering and CSU-wide credit-limit for undergraduate degree programs necessitates that students in the BME program at SJSU take only a single statics course in their third year, and no dynamics courses, before enrolling in BME 167 — Introduction to Engineering Biomechanics.
  • To give students at least some exposure to the type of biomechanical analysis encountered in industry, the current BME 167 course material includes a brief review of statics, introduction to strengths of materials, and an introduction to dynamics, all while applying these concepts to inherently complex biological systems. As a result, the students must become proficient with difficult concepts in half the time as conventional engineering curricula, and some important concepts can only be briefly discussed due to time constraints.
  • Large class sizes (>65) and a dense course content does not allow for a typical laboratory component to be added to the class.

Why Redesign your Course?

  • While the core concepts for engineering mechanics can be very relatable to students' everyday experiences, the mathematical formulation and description of these concepts can be abstract and difficult to grasp.
  • The course redesign will provide the students with the opportunity to relate the engineering concepts explored in lecture by constructing and experimenting with their own biomechanical test systems through a series of group "take-home" labs.
  • These labs will also provide a fundamental understanding of the hardware components required for data acquisition of biomechanical data, as well as experience with industry-standard testing procedures.

Last Year's Syllabus: BME 167 Syllabus - Spring 2018

About the Students and Instructor

Student Characteristics

  • The class is typically comprised of 75-80% biomedical engineering (BME) majors and 20-25% mechanical engineering (ME) majors at San José State University (SJSU). The class is typically taken in spring of either their third or fourth year.
Table 1: BME/ME 167 Student Distribution

BME Students
ME Students Other StudentsTotal
Spring 20185014165
Spring 2019695175
  • When they enter BME 167, all students have taken an introductory “statics” course, but only the ME’s have taken any additional courses in mechanics or dynamics. Similarly, the BME students have a strong background in human physiology that the ME students do not.
  • Neither group has had much training in the design of mechanical testing systems, nor the sensors required to collect biomechanical data.

Advice I Give my Students to be Successful

  • Never be afraid to ask questions! Use the Piazza site to ask questions and get responses, anonymously if you wish, and get answers from both the instructor and your classmates.
  • Start early! Get help often! Be sure to come to office hours with the instructor and TA. We are happy to help walk you through homework and take-home labs if you get confused. The earlier you ask questions, the more time you have for help!
  • The internet is your friend! If you are confused in class, maybe the instructional staff isn’t making sense. Use the internet to find alternative explanations or additional information. Maybe your will have insight that you didn’t get from the instructor! Be sure to check the course Canvas site for useful links people have found from previous years. If you find a new one, let us know!

Impact of Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives (SLOs) on Course Redesign

  1. Describe and understand the functional anatomy of the human body.
  2. Understand kinetic concepts including inertia, force, torque, and impulse.
  3. Discuss and compare mechanical behavior of linear-elastic, viscoelastic, and nonlinear-elastic materials under external loads.
  4. Apply the principles of biomechanics to different components of the human musculoskeletal system.
  5. Formulate the physical models and simplified linear mathematical models describing equilibrium and dynamic problems related to the human body.
  6. Solve biomechanics problems quantitatively.
  7. Identify the components required for test systems to collect and analyze measurements of static and dynamic biomechanical behavior.
  8. Characterize mechanical properties of elastic and viscoelastic materials from empirical data

Alignment of SLOs With LIT Redesign

  • The course re-design with take-home labs is primarily aimed at directly addressing SLOs 7 and 8. Whereas previous versions of the course discussed materials testing and kinematic data collection, the re-design gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in these areas.
  • This hands-on experience will also reinforce the SLOs 3-5. Physically interacting with the data collection systems will give students a new way to interact with the course material, and encourage them to make connections between their physical experiments and the concepts and equations from lectures and homework.

Assessments Used to Measure Students' Achievement of SLOs

  • Multiple-choice concept quizzes will be administered through Canvas after lecture, but before take-home labs are completed. The answers will not be revealed to the students, and the same quiz will be administered after the take-home labs. Students will be given credit for completing both quizzes, but only the second quiz will be graded for correctness. The success of the take-home lab at reinforcing course material will be assessed by comparing the before and after quiz scores.
  • Midterm and Final Exams will be given as well to evaluate overall course understanding.

Accessibility, Affordability, and Diversity Accessibility

  • The course syllabus follows the standard SJSU accessible format, which enables full text-to-speech translation
  • Instructional video instructions provided with the take-home labs will be captioned using Camtasia.
  • The take-home labs will rely on the basic programming and electronics knowledge from prerequisite courses. However, the written and video instructions will walk students through all steps of the process. Teaching Assistant office hours will provide an additional outlet for student questions.


  • Electronic copies of the textbook for the course is available to students free of charge through the SJSU library. Similarly, the use of the iClicker Reef app is free for all students possessing a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The programming interface for the Arduino microcontrollers required for the take-home labs is also freely available.
  • The take-home labs for this course use low-cost hardware (e.g. Arduino micro-controllers and SparkFun sensors) and open-source software to give students to build small-scale versions of the expensive materials testing platforms used in industry and in research.


  • The combination of in-class lecture, peer-instruction and iClicker concept questions, and hands-on take-home labs reinforces key concepts from several perspectives, which caters to a students with a variety of learning style preferences.
  • Similarly, the ability for students to ask questions anonymously and on their own time through Piazza can alleviate some of the anxiety around asking questions in person. Similarly, seeing other students' questions and responses can provide additional confidence in their own questions.

Student Characteristics

  • The class is typically comprised of 75-80% biomedical engineering (BME) majors and 20-25% mechanical engineering (ME) majors at San José State University (SJSU). The class is typically taken in spring of either their third or fourth year.
  • When they enter BME 167, all students have taken an introductory “statics” course, but only the ME’s have taken any additional courses in mechanics or dynamics. Similarly, the BME students have a strong background in human physiology that the ME students do not.
  • Neither group has had much training in the design of mechanical testing systems, nor the sensors required to collect biomechanical data.

About the Instructor: Dr. Matthew Leineweber

I am an assistant professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at San José State University. I hold my PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, both my teaching and research interests focus on biomechanics and design of mobility-assistive technology. I am a strong believer that engineering is best learned by doing, and so I seek to promote an interactive class environment that gives students the opportunity for hands-on learning. I’ve found that students learn best when given the opportunity to explain their thought process to their peers, and get different perspectives (i.e. not just from their instructor) on course material. These perspectives often come from tackling a problem from a different angle.

Curriculum Vitae:
Matthew Leineweber CV

Student Instructional Team: Eddy Jimenez & Hoang Nguyen 

Two student Teaching Assistants were recruited to help design and construct the take-home lab kits. During the redesigned course, these two students also provided troubleshooting assistance and technical guidance to the BME 167 students as they worked to complete their lab activities.

This LIT project provided an excellent opportunity for Eddy and Hoang to gain experience designing multi-part test systems, and allowed them to develop skills in a number of technical areas, including programming, machining, CAD, and data acquisition. Some links to a few of the tools they used to design the test systems.

LIT Redesign Planning

Implementing the Redesigned Course 

What aspects of your course have you redesigned?

  • Previously, BME 167 contained a term project where students worked in groups to research and report on a self-selected topic pertaining to biomechanics. While the project helped students to develop their writing and, to some degree, analytical skills, there was no component to the course where they could get hands-on experience working with the physical phenomena described in the class. This year, I have replaced the project component with a series of short take-home labs. Students now have the opportunity to build their own test system, conduct experiments, then write short technical reports detailing their methods and results in the context of the key concepts discussed in lecture.

Describe the class size(s) What technology is being used?

  • Spring 2019 has a slightly larger enrollment than previous years, and is comprised of 70 BME students and 5 mechanical engineering students.
  • The lab instructions are being provided to students as PDFs, and are accompanied by detailed instructional videos created using Camtasia.
  • The labs themselves give students the opportunities to work with hardware that is commonly used for prototype development and hobbyists. The hardware includes:

    • Arduino microcontrollers.

      • Arduino controllers are affordable and widely used for a variety of engineering applications. The newly designed take-home labs give students the opportunity to work with these devices and gain experience that will be particularly valuable for many of them in other course projects, Senior Design projects, and potentially in their engineering careers. Since these devices are very affordable (<$20), students have the option of purchasing their own and starting their own projects outside of class, using the same technology they were trained on during the labs.
    • Bar-style load cell and ultrasonic displacement sensor obtained through Sparkfun.

      • As with the Arduino controllers, these particular types of sensors were chosen for their affordability and accessibility. While they are not as accurate as industrial-grade sensors, they are sufficiently accurate for the lab's purposes. Furthermore, their limitations present additional learning opportunities for students to understand the limitations of data acquisition hardware, and to use their problem solving skills to design creative ways to circumvent the sensors' shortcomings.
    • Amplifier boards, breadboard, wires
  • Questions on the labs (and other course material) are facilitated through Piazza.

    • I have used Piazza extensively in other courses to great effect. Students are usually much more likely to post questions (anonymously) online than they are to attend office hours, and so the overall class engagement is significantly improved. This also platform enables students to get rapid responses to their questions from their peers as well as the instructional staff.
  • Weekly "reading quizzes" are administered through Canvas. These quizzes cover the assigned reading for the upcoming week, and are designed to highlight concepts that will be important in the upcoming lectures. These questions never require the students to perform calculations, nor do they have the students simply define terms. Instead, they try to probe a little deeper into the ideas behind the concepts, and force students to think about the material a little more closely before coming to class.

What professional development activities have you participated during your course redesign?

  • I attended a learning session where the training staff from Piazza demonstrated some of the new features of Piazza, and provided suggestions on how to incorporate these new features into my class. Later, I sat on a faculty panel hosted by the SJSU eCampus to share with other faculty the ways in which I have used Piazza to facilitate student participation, and enhance student learning.

Which Additional Resources Were Needed for the Redesign?

  • I met with a colleague in BME who often creates high-quality video lectures using Camtasia to learn tips, tricks, and pitfalls he has encountered when producing his videos.

Revised Syllabus

BME 167 Syllabus - Spring 2019

The Take-Home Lab Kits

Lab Goals
  1. Give students the opportunity to construct their own miniature tensile testing systems out of off-the-shelf components and readily-available materials
    • Learn the key components of materials testing systems and how they work together to produce force and deformation data (sensors, actuators, data acquisition, etc.)
  2. Collect force and deformation measurements from physical specimens to visualize the differences between elastic and viscoelastic behavior
  3. Apply numerical analysis techniques and mathematical models of ideal material behavior to characterize the properties of elastic and viscoelastic materials
    • Provide experience processing and interpreting noisy data

      Fitting mathematical relationships to noisy data, and extracting meaningful quantities

      Practice conducting error analysis and troubleshooting engineering systems

Students were split into self-selected teams of three to complete three Lab Assignments. Each team was provided a Lab Kit with all of the components required to construct their own desktop tensilse testing system.

Each lab kit contained all of the individual components required to conduct the take-home tensile test device.  
The lab kits were accompanied by a set of both written and illustrated "Lego-style" instructions for assembling the tensile test harwdare
Wiring diagrams were also provided to assist the students in connecting the sensors and data acquisition hardware

Using the components and instructions provided, students were able to construct their own test systems. Once the systems were constructed, they were ready to begin collecting data.

Each lab kit costs approximately $80, including sensors, microcontroller, hardware, and test specimens

Lab Activities

Lab 1Lab 2Lab 3
  1. Lab kit assembly
  2. Calibrating the force sensor
  3. Measuring force and deformation data for a linear-elastic spring

  1. Characterize the force-deformation relationships for a linear-elastic spring at different deformation rates
  2. Characterize the force-deformation relationships for viscoelastic materials at different deformation rates
  3. Qantify the stress-relaxation behavior of viscoelastic materials by applying the Standard Linear Solid model to experimental data colelcted with the test system

  1. Measure the cyclic loading force-deformation behavior for linear-elastic and viscoelastic materials
  2. Calculate deformation energy, recovered energy, and energy loss
  3. Test a material of the students' choosing and characterize its behavior using the principles covered in Lab 1, Lab 2, and Lab 3

For each lab, the students submitted:

  • Plots of their data, as instructed in the lab handouts

    Answers to post-lab questions

    Written to help students draw connections between the data they collected with their systems and the theoretical behavior discussed in class

Labs were assigned in the last month of the semester, after the material had been introduced during lecture

  • Students were given two weeks to complete each lab

Labs in Action

Students could see real-time force and deformation data plotted to their MATLAB interface as they stretched their test specimens.

LIT Results and Findings

LIT Redesign Impact on Teaching and Learning

  • How has the course redesign strategies affected your instruction and your students’ learning? Did your redesign strategy solve the issues that motivated you to redesign the course?
  • Describe how your students mastered the student learning outcomes. Were the students more successful in the redesigned course than in previous courses? Explain.
  • Did you experience unexpected results after teaching the redesigned course? If so, what were they?
  • Consider attaching a more in-depth report describing the impact of your activities and experiences during the course redesign as a document/link/image. If possible consider including samples of students' work that reflect the impact of the redesign.

Assessment: Overall Course Performance

  • The final course grades for the pre-redesign class (Spring 2018, blue) and post-redesign (Spring 2019, gold) are shown below. There final grade distributions were not significantly different pre- and post-redesign. However, this finding is not altogether unexpected, as the redesign only focused on the material covered during the middle third of the semester, and they were not introduced until the second half of the course. 

  • Future implementations of the redesign will introduce the take-home labs to the students earlier in the semester, so that they (1) have more time to complete the lab activities, and (2) can gain hands-on experience visualizing materials behavior eariler in the course.

Assessment: Pre- and Post-Lab Quizzes

  • Student comprehension of the core concepts emphasized through the course redesign was primarily assessed through multiple choice "concept quizzes" administered before and after completion of the three lab assignments.
    • Students completed the "Pre-Labs Quiz" before the labs were assigned, but after the material was covered in lecture.
      • 10 multiple choice/multiple answer questions
      • Administered through Canvas LMS
      • Students were given a single attempt with unlimited time to complete the quiz on their own. The correct answers were not shown after they completed the quiz.
    • The "Post-Labs Quiz" was administered after all three labs were completed and submitted
      • The Post Labs Quiz identical the Pre-Labs Quiz - same questions, same time limits.
    • Students' scores were compared to assess any improvement in understanding that may be attributed to participation in the lab activities.
    • Both quizzes were scored out of 10 points

Student Feedback

  • In addition to the pre- and post-lab quizzes, students were administered a set of survey questions to provide feedback on:
    • Aspects of the lab activities they enjoyed
    • Aspects of the lab activities that were especially difficult or confusing
    • Comparison of the take-home lab format against traditional labs
Question 1: “In your opinion, how helpful were the lab activities at seeing the difference between elastic and viscoelastic behavior?”
Question 2: “How helpful were the labs in increasing your understanding of the calibration process, and what it accomplishes?”

Student Quotes:
“The real-time graphs generated in MATLAB helped me understand/appreciate what is happening to the material as I deform it, so it helped me connect "textbook" information to the "real-world" in my learning process.”
“Generating the graphs from the data was a bit confusing because I was not sure how to do it, and there were no instructions on how to generate the graphs and do fits for MATLAB/Excel… …But once the graphs were generated, it was extremely helpful to answer the post lab questions and understanding the concepts.”
“I enjoyed working through the post-lab questions with friends as I was able to work through any complicated concepts and find a solution with the help of them. I also enjoyed setting up the lab as it made us feel like we were actually "engineering.””
“I feel like since we worked in groups, I didn't get a full grasp on the system as a whole. So I would be great at explaining certain parts and bad at explaining others. For example, I physically did the experiments and answered post lab questions, but another member primarily did the MATLAB/Excel work and so I wouldn't be as comfortable explaining that part. But that's the nature of group work.”
“I thought it really help enforce some of the ideas in class, when actually going through the whole process and seeing how to relate it to the calculations. It just was really close to the end of the semester and it was on top of all the other projects and homework in BME.”

Question: Compared to a traditional "in-class" lab, did the "take-home" labs give you more time to complete the required activities?

Question: Compared to traditional "in-class" labs, how effective were the "take-home" labs at helping you understand the material being covered?

Student Quotes:
“The labs did help advance my knowledge of how a tensile system works.   I learned how a load cell works and why the calibration process is conducted. I'm still a little novice on generating some of the plots.”
“I was a little bit confused on the graphs. Usually one group member did the graphs since it was hard to work on them all together. I got a little stuck on how to create certain sections."
“Just due to the exposure we've had I don't think we could truly explain/understand the workings and results of a tensile tester. We could repeat the lab instructions but not discuss it. Especially how the Arduino board works-- I was excited to try and build it ourselves but that would probably have taken half the semester."
“The lab is written clearly to help me know what needs to be done. However, I don't really learn anything from doing the lab. It may be helpful with we have tradition " in- class'" lab when students require to go, ask and have answers right away.”

Question: Are take-home labs something you would like to see more of in different classes?

Question: Did you actually take the labs home? Did friends and/or family ask questions about what you were doing? If so, please provide some details.

"I did take the lab home and friends did ask about what I was doing. It was kind of fun to explain the principles of how the device works and its overall purpose to someone from a different background.”
“Yes, we took the lab kit to our homes for each of the lab assignments. It was quite fun to explain to our families and friends what we were doing; it made us feel like engineers to explain the concepts to others and demonstrate [response stopped here]”
“My dad responded with ‘what the heck is that?’ and I explained what it was and he said that is cool and took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. I'm not sure why."
“Yes, I took the labs home. Yes my family did ask questions about what I was doing. They were curious as to what I was doing and what the purpose of it was. I had to explain that its for my biomechanics class and that it's basically a test that stretches a material, and we're supposed to obtain data from the test and generate graphs/plots in order to better understand viscoelasticity.”

Challenges My Students Encountered

Several key challenge areas for the students, and areas for improvement for the lab activities were identified from the Student Feedback Survey:

  • Since the labs were only assigned in the last month of the semester, students felt rushed to complete them in conjunction with their remaining schoolwork. As a result, many teams divvied up the work amongst the team, and so not all students got experience with all portions of the lab.
  • A few of the hardware components need to be redesigned to improve strength and durability.
  • Whily most of the students liked the take-home lab format at least as much as a traditional lab, a significant portion (46%) preferred traditional labs in some form. They felt that the take-home labs did not provide sufficient opportunity for getting immediate help in addressing equipment issues and answering questions.

Lessons Learned & Redesign Tips

Teaching Tips

  • Assign the lab assignments early in the semester to provide students with ample time to complete the work and "play" with the kits throughout the semester.
  • Incorporate some additional "in-class" work sessions, deomonstrations, lab lectures, etc. sporadicallythroughout the semester to give students who perfer traditional labs the chance to get immediate feedback on their work.
    • Video recording these sessions and posting them to the LMS can let students who missed the session get the same information on their own time.
  • Encourage students to NOT divvy up the lab work amongst themselves, so that everybody gets experience with all portions of the labs.

Strategies I Used to Increase Engagement

  • The Piazza platform was very popular among the students as a way to get rapid feedback outside of class hours
  • What pedagogical strategies did you use in your new redesigned course to engage students?


  • Now that the fundamentals of the lab kits have been developed, the same labs can be assigned during each subsequet year, with minimal cost
    • Restocking the lab kits can be performed with minimal cost, which can be covered by standard lab fees paid by students (no additional cost to the students)
  • Additional lab modules can be developed through Senior Design and Master's student projects. E.g.
    • Automating the tests by replacing the manual hand-crank with stepper-motors
    • Additional fixtures for testing different material types (human hair, cartilage, etc.)
      MS students in BME 207 - Experimental Methods in Biomedical Engineering incorporated a stepper motor into the existing take-home tensile testing platform to enable precise control of the deformation speed and total deformation amount.
  • New lab activities can be added to explore additional concepts related to materials testing. e.g:
    • Alternative calibration methods
    • Data acquisition techniques and algorithms - have the students develop their own code in MATLAB, Python, etc.
    • Creep-recovery testing, buckling testing, etc.
  • The data acquisition and visualization algorithms will be further developed into standalone programs that do not require the MATLAB software package. This improvement will increase the accessibility of the take-home labs to institutions and individuals without MATLAB licenses, and will ensure that the systems remain low-cost and open-source.
The low cost and readily available materials used for these lab kits make them ideal for distribution to educational settings outside the CSU system - namely community colleges and high schools, as well as developing countries. I am currently working to publish all of the materials lists, assembly instructions, and lab activities online. These resouces will be freely available and open-source, so that educators worldwide can access, implement, and improve upon the lab activities and hardware.

This site will be updated to include links to the online materials as soon as they are completed.

Instructor Reflection

The LIT program was a great experience, and I am looking forward to expanding on these take-home labs for this class and beyond. Based on some excellent feedback from the LIT group during the final presentation, I will be incorporating some in-person and video instruction into the take-home labs when they are assigned again next Spring, and am excited to see how these sessions are received by the students. There were also some suggestions to connect with our MakerSpace labs here on campus to use these kits as examples of designs and systems students can build for other engienering (and other STEM) course and research projects. I will definitely be pursuing this option as a first step to getting the systems disseminated to the wider scientific, engineering, and education communities.

I had two great students working on this project with me, and they did a fantastic job designing the kits, assembling them for the BME 167 students, and then providing technical assistance to the students as they worked on the labs. Our next steps are to put together a manuscript documenting the system they designed, and using the LIT experience as a showcase for how this system can be implemented into educational settings. I am working with these students to prepare this mansucript this Summer, and I have already recruited an undergraduate research student to perform additional validation work in the Fall.

A Few Highlights to Share

A few students in the class saw some extra potential in the take-home lab kits, and decided to incorporate them into projects for other courses, and even their Senior Design projects.

In the picture and video on the right, we can see the system in action. This student's project aimed at characterizing the resistance of stretchable circuits, and was conducted in conjunction with a high-end contract manufacturing company:

"I took [the test system] to Jabil (company where he is an intern) when I was working on my senior project. We almost considered using it for our tests, but the Instron kept malfunctioning so in the end we were not able to.”

A few students had a little fun around Easter, and decided to see how much a Peeps rabbit could stretch. While they chose the candy just for fun (unprompted by the instructor), it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for them to see the deformation behavior of a real-life (if slightly modified) biomaterial. Marshmallow is made of sugar and gelatin. Gelatin is just a reduced form of collagen, which is a major component to all soft tissues in mammals (tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, etc.)! While the students thought they were having a little bit of fun, the joke is on them. It turns out they were learning!