Middle school students to showcase their fitness game innovations

December 3, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Teams of students from four Indiana middle schools on Dec. 11 will demonstrate their "exergame" innovations to judges and the public during an event at Purdue University.

The event is part of the three-year Teaching Engineering Concepts to Harness Future Innovators and Technologists (TECHFIT) project, designed to use kids' interest in video games and problem solving to inspire them to gain the STEM skills needed to invent technology-based fitness games. The project, headed up by Purdue College of Technology professors Brad and Alka Harriger, was made possible by a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to tackle two national challenges: increasing children's interest in science, technology, engineering and math; and decreasing childhood obesity. Mike and Susan Flynn, two former Purdue faculty and current College of Charleston faculty, are providing their health and fitness expertise to the TECHFIT project.

The TECHFIT team trained Indiana middle school teachers how to help their students create exergames that require players to get up and move. Now those student teams will be on the move to Purdue to show off their creations.

"Our goal was to channel the enthusiasm young people have for video games and show students how STEM fields not only relate to their interests, but also can be used to help solve problems we face in society," said Brad Harriger, professor of mechanical engineering technology, and the project's principal investigator. "I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the level of creativity and energy the students brought to these projects."

The showcase event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the France A. Córdova Recreational Sports Center. Judging will take place from noon to 2 p.m. Each school's team will have 20 minutes to share their TECHFIT experience and demonstrate their exergames. While the judges confer, those attending can engage in a group brain blast (fitness) activity and view short videos of the summer TECHFIT programs. An awards ceremony is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Anyone interested in a tour of the College of Technology Manufacturing Lab before or after the TECHFIT event should contact the Harrigers.

Participating teams represent South Adams Middle School in Berne, Fegely Middle School in Portage, Bremen Middle School in Bremen, and Lakeside Middle School in Fort Wayne.

TECHFIT fosters middle school student enthusiasm for STEM disciplines by equipping teachers with skills and tools to engage their students and show them how engineering technology knowledge can help them become innovators of interesting, fun, and valuable products. TECHFIT recruited eight teams of two to four science, technology, math and physical education teachers from eight middle schools in Indiana and South Carolina. Participating teachers completed a six-day professional development summer workshop, which prepared them to deliver a 10-week afterschool program to 20-35 students with a goal of designing and building exergames. All teacher teams were provided technology toolkits valued at approximately $4,000, which they used during their summer professional development training and are using now in their instruction to students in the afterschool programs.

The Harrigers will begin recruiting schools in January for the 2015 cohort. The program for teacher teams will be in summer 2015. For more information, interested school administrators and teachers should email Brad Harriger at bcharrig@purdue.edu or Alka Harriger at harrigea@purdue.edu

Sources: Brad Harriger, 765-494-7515, bcharrig@purdue.edu

Alka Harriger, 765-494-2565, harrigea@purdue.edu 

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