The Phillie Phanatic's Special Lecture on "Phriction"
The Department of Bioengineering's Introduction to Biomechanics course hosted an unusual guest lecturer this week. At six feet six inches tall, weighing in at 300 pounds (mostly fat) and sporting a 90-inch waist, the Phillie Phanatic took a break from his official mascot duties to assist the engineers in efforts to design safer surfaces.
The course, known as BE 200, is taught jointly by David Meaney, Solomon R. Pollack Professor and Chair of Bioengineering, and Leann Dourte, Lecturer in Bioengineering. The class uses principles of physics to understand how forces are transferred to different parts of the human body. Students use their findings to understand how to design many medical devices and treatments, such as hip implants, artificial blood vessels, and even synthetic cartilage.
The Phanatic came to the class claiming that he slipped on a blanket, but was upset that no one would believe him. The Phanatic volunteered to be the test subject for the class, allowing students to measure his considerable bulk and prove that his story was possible. Students used a goniometer, a movable protractor-like device, to measure the position of the Phanatic's legs in relation to the floor as his legs slowly moved farther apart. At the point the Phanatic's legs slipped uncontrollably, the students calculated the friction coefficient between the blanket and the floor. To this disappointment of the Phanatic, the students concluded his claim was not possible.
Knowing surface friction is important in designing floors that aren't dangerous. Undoubtedly, our engineers will use this knowledge to develop the next generation of flooring materials, but the Phanatic won't be earning his BSE anytime soon – he fell asleep during the lecture.