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Student Turns Soccer Training Technology Into Physical Therapy Tool

Posted by Brian Spence on Dec 16, 2016 8:00:00 AM

SoccerBall.jpgSoccer is a sport that requires skill, dexterity, and coordination to control a ball. But the same movements that players perform to practice their soccer skills can also be useful to help patients recover from physical problems. A student project developed as a soccer practice tool has found broader applications in physical therapy.

Amelia Day, a 14-year-old eighth grader, turned her love of soccer into a new practice tool. The tool consists of a pressure-sensing soccer ball that is tethered to a parasol shaft, according to a blog from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

The tool uses a Raspberry Pi, a small and inexpensive computer that can be applied to various computer programming projects. LED lights, Bluetooth communications, and pressure points on the ball combine to help soccer players work on their form as they practice properly connecting their foot with the right force at the right spot on the ball.

It turns out that young Amelia also loves engineering. With the encouragement and support of her teacher, she decided to expand her project into a way to provide physical therapy for stroke patients. The soccer training aspect of the tool makes it fun, but Amelia tells the Raspberry Pi foundation that the feedback via the Bluetooth audio helps rebuild neural pathways in the brain – key to helping patients recover from a stroke.

Amelia has won recognition for her efforts. She entered her project in Discover Education’s 3M Young Science Challenge 2015, which is a competition for U.S. students in the fifth to eighth grades. Though Amelia was among the final ten contestants, she did not win, placing third runner up. But her project showed how young minds are finding new solutions that make physical therapy both engaging and fun.

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