CDU media release for STEMfit

STEMfit engages NT kids in learning

3 March 2020

Jim Lee
Dr Jim Lee has been investigating the potential of STEMfit technology in the classroom.

Charles Darwin University Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Science, Dr Jim Lee has been researching the use of wearable technologies in STEM education, using students’ own performance data to engage them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes.

Together with Jeff Parker and Associate Professor Danny James, Dr Lee has delivered the final report to the Northern Territory Department of Education Innovation Fund for School Improvement. The report demonstrates the potential of STEMfit technology in classrooms.    

STEMfit is a wearable device used to capture performance data. Successfully used by elite athletes, the challenge was to translate the technology from elite athletes to school kids. Dr Lee trialled the technology at four schools – Clyde Fenton Primary School and Timber Creek, Bulla Camp and Amanbidji schools.

“We wanted to include rural and remote schools who often get left out, to give something back,” he said.

“We wanted to engage kids in a positive learning experience, doing something they are good at and can be proud of.”

The aim of the STEMfit is to deliver to schools a program that teachers could plug in and run without any need for additional software or training.

Students performed a series of actions (running, walking and jumping) and used their own data to calculate various maths problems.

“We showed them their running speed compared with school children in Japan and their average speed was faster,” Dr Lee said.

“They quickly engaged with the subject because they could relate to it.”

Interestingly, primary school students understood concepts such as acceleration and gravity much more readily than adults, he said.

“Students who had never picked up a ruler before were suddenly thinking and reasoning their way through complex maths problems,” Dr Lee said.

“With STEMfit they could see the data on screen as they jumped and understand the science based on evidence, not theory.”

According to Dr Lee, the Government has identified a lack of STEM activities in Australia, particularly for Indigenous girls. The next stage of the project will be to involve teachers in the development of the STEMfit curriculum.

“We are tapping into something students care about, in this case sport, to give them a greater understanding in subjects where they typically disengage.”

Link to the article in the CDU website

Football: A STEM job for the future

STEMfit partner Dr Wheeler is no stranger to sport, on any given weekend you’ll find him out there playing community rugby (well until his young family came along anyway). But what does his day job as a rugby player look like?….well you guessed it, its playing rugby too! (kinda).

17/06/06 bw156994i Rugby union, Stingrays v’s University at Quad Park: Keane Wheeler wins a lineout. Photo: Brett Wortman

So what kind of benefits do sports science bring to playing sport? So in rugby you want to get the ball up the other end of the field without getting tackled. The best players don’t just get past a tackle, they avoid them entirely. Keane’s work helped identify this using video cameras (today we are using our sensors though). This is the job of science and STEM tools, to help our coaches understand through evidence why certain actions are beneficial. So our movements can not only teach us STEM stuff, STEM can teach us all about how to be a better rugby player!!!

For more info take a quick peak into one of his papers and have a look.
Modification of Agility Running Technique in Reaction to a Defender in Rugby Union

(See his other work here)

Changes to running technique occur when required to make a decision.
Fast agility performers use different stepping strategies in reactive conditions.
Decision-making must be incorporated in agility training programs.


STEMfit, from the biochemistry lab

img_1431While STEMfit was founded on measuring how your body moves, STEMfit partner Dr. Charlie introduced us to how a better understanding of how our bodies create and store energy are now also a big part of STEMfit. Dr Charlie teaches premed medical students all about metabolism, how we create energy in our body, how we use it can help us understand how to eat right, why we run out of energy when playing sport and how to train better. What to eat before your big day and the truth about soft drinks and diet drinks are so much more understandable The mysteries of the infamous Krebs cycle, anaerobic and aerobic exercise and why we fell sore the day after a big training session all make so much sense. Thanks Dr. Charlie

All about Gravity

Gravity, about as interesting as it might get in the school yard is hearing about the proverbial apple falling on Newtons head, or if your lucky dropping some marbles of of D block…

One of the great things about inertial sensors is that they measure gravity. Gravity being 1g (0.98m/s/s for the technical), and is one of those few constants in life (along with death and taxes I suppose). This makes it a really neat component present in any signal you measure on an inertial sensor, be it your mobile phone, watch, or one of our STEMfit wearables.

Knowing there is a constant gravity signal in your wearable turns out to be really useful for example in sports like swimming, where the roll of your body, which is in time with strokes, makes a handy stroke counter. You can also measure the changes in body orientation during skydiving tricks (if you like jumping out of planes).

One area where it is particularly fascinating is where a sensor is freefalling in the air, in such a case the gravity component disappears from the signal (ask your students why? if you need to fill in 15mins of a lesson). So now that you have a measure of when an object is in free fall you can measure how long it is in free-fall. From there and thanks to the great works of Mr Newtons laws of motion you can calculate vertical height! Including everything from standing vertical jumps, BMX jumps and even a snowboarders height in a half pipe. Now that makes for a really interesting physics lesson!

Here are some of our papers if you want to know more

Wearable Sensors in sport: A practical guide

Performance assessment innovations for elite snowboarding

An integrated swimming monitoring system for the biomechanical analysis of swimming strokes

Inertial monitoring of style and accuracy at 10,000 feet

STEMfit in the pool

small.1110 SWIM RESEARCH-MM438537-044206.jpgWay back in the dark ages of the early 2000’s the STEMfit team were working with Australia’s elite athletes to develop a swimming technology to help improve performance. One of the secrets of performance enhancement is that first you have to be able to measure the performance. A stopwatch and lap times is a great start, but in today’s world if you want to finish on the podium you need a bit more than that. It turns out that using wearables like we use in STEMfit can do a whole lot of measuring. STEMfit co-founder, Jim, has used wearables to measure stroke rates, stroke times, body roll angle, and even how long it takes to do a turn at the end of a lap. So why is lap turn so important? , it turns (sorry ’bout the pun)  out it takes up to 0.5 seconds…and thats often the difference between finishing on the podium or finishing last! FWIW, swimming turns can take up to 30% of a whole swim’s time – how? Well, that is a story for another time….

Here is some more reading from on of Jim’s publications
Inertial sensor, 3D and 2D assessment of stroke phases in freestyle swimming

(See more here)

Why maths?

Jeff, Jim and Dan attended the Australian Association of Maths teachers annual conference to deliver a paper on STEMfit. It was met with enthusiasum and a number of followup meetings ensued. The presentation itself was a heady mix of education, sports science and wearables with plenty of ‘red herrings’ and discussion throughout the presentation. Interruptions were welcomed and allowed a free flow of ideas of where STEMfit is heading in the future.

Utilising wearable technology and sports sciences to engage students in STEM activities

James B Lee,1Jeff Parker2& Daniel A. James1

1 Exercise and Sports Science, College of Health and Human Sciences, Charles Darwin University, Australia

2. Department of Education, Northern Territory, Australia


Student engagement in STEM learning activities has been flagged as a major barrier to active learning in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at primary and secondary levels. This paper presents the results of utilising wearable technologies in field-based class activities to engage more directly in 

Wearable technology is increasingly utilised in assessing sporting performance at elite levels and more recently has found popularity with the general population, including school aged children. in this study wearable technology was applied to a custom developed education program as a multifaceted approach by developing the technology for suitability in a schooling and education context. Children have been shown to learn more effectively if they can relate to what is being taught. In this approach children created their own data using body worn wearable sensors which were then subsequently investigated in the classroom. 

The levels of engagement and self-directed enquiry in the test cohort demonstrate that this novel approach can foster critical and creative thinking while exposing children to new technology. Further the technology is well suited to vertical integration and has the capability to be applied across all teaching ages. 

Utilising wearable technology and sports sciences to engage students in STEM activities

Why Maths? Inspiration beyond the Classroom, pp9 2019, Australian Association of Maths Teachers, Brisbane, Australia

The science behind STEMfit and our new book

Some time back Jim, Dan and Keane put together a book on using wearing sensors in sport. It was for them the culmination of decades of work in the discipline, publishing several hundred papers on the topic in scientific articles.

This book was a little bit different though and intended to reach into the community in a more practical way, with explanations around the theory of the technology, how to do good sports science and some examples along the way two.

The book

Wearable Sensors in Sport: A Practical Guide to Usage and Implementation

was published by Springer Nature and has been quite well received

Anyways don’t take our word for it, checkout what Julian from Sports Technology Blog had to say on New Book: Wearable Sensors In Sport on

We like to think of it as the secret sauce behind STEMfit!

Welcome to new teachers

One of the great things about a partnership with the NT Education department is the chance to share what we have been working on. Earlier this month we were invited to speak to teachers just beginning their journey in the NT Education department.

Jeff and Jim shared our STEMfit concept , too much intrest. Good luck with your first year out there guys…we are looking forward to working with you in the future.

STEMfit-teacher summmit

STEM, a new language

jump-reach computer-measure

There is a lot going on in the classroom, STEM skills often represent a whole new language and without out context its challenging to learn. This is where sport can be so useful, its as close to a universal language you can get. Its gives context and meaning to human activity, joining the dots with STEM skills to understand how we move is an exciting way to harness this intrest in out bodies.

For many of our students English is also a second language too, so thats another language to add to the mix, luckily we can can all have a good time in the playground to establish rapport and meaning to the classroom experience