Course Profile

KNES 289W: the Cybernetic Human

From 2014 – 2016 I worked with Dr. Ross Miller to develop and implement this i-Series course at the University of Maryland. We used our interdisciplinary backgrounds to create engaging and accessible materials to engage both kinesiology and other majors in this course. The highlight was our development of “Superhero Kinesiology” where the major assignment was to use course concepts to decide who would win in a battle to the death, Ironman or Batman?

We also implemented Specifications Grading for the first time in the department and college.

Course Description

Can the profound and rapid technological advances experienced in the 21st century change what it means to be human or the nature of humanity? Emergent technologies, new materials, increased computer power, engineering innovations, and groundbreaking work in the sciences of cognition and action provide myriad opportunities for repairing and enhancing the human body and brain. Examines the ethical, social, and technological implications of an increasing synergism of technology and the body in sports and the arts, at work or home, rehabilitating the body and the brain, and society at large.

The course will focus on the rapidly emerging field of “wearable technology” and its impact on human function and society.  We will cover four topics in the following order:

  1. Limits to Human Performance: Why do humans move the way we do?  What factors make us unable to continually improve our physical capability?  How do injury, illness, and aging affect these factors?  Can they be reversed or mitigated?
  2. Activity Monitors: Advanced commercial devices for quantifying personal physical activity have recently become available and are rapidly evolving.  What can a $1,000 “smartwatch” tell me that a $20 pedometer cannot?  What is this extra information useful for?  Is it accurate?  Does it need to be?
  3. Prostheses & Exoskeletons: Over one million Americans are currently living with lower limb amputations, and this number of expected to double by 2050.  What are the barriers faced by amputees to be mobile in the modern world?  Can current prosthesis technology restore “normal” function?  Should amputee and non-amputee athletes compete together?
  4. Superhero Kinesiology: A modern human could never become Superman, but what about Batman or Iron Man, who have no innate super powers?  Is peak human physiology capable of performing their feats?  What technological advances would be needed first?  Would they be viewed as heroes or criminals?  

Course Learning Objectives:

Upon completing this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Use principles from kinesiology to understand the interface between human performance and modern technology in sports and medicine
  2. Describe the biomechanical benefits and consequences of assistive technology such as prostheses an dexoskeletons
  3. Describe the social implications and expanded role for technology such as mobile monitoring on the quality of human life

Course Format

  • Traditional lecture style 50 minutes (twice weekly)
  • Discussion sections 50 minutes (bi-weekly)

Learning Assessments

  • Six exercises (completed in bi-weekly discussion sections)
  • Four homework assignments
  • Mid Semester and final exam
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