Plaid Works

Hannah Wallace: Hexoskin Researcher

Wireless sensor suits gather physio-metric data while tracking breathing, respiratory function and heart rate.

Hannah WallaceHannah WallaceHexoskins are not a new fad when it comes to research at Alma College. These wearable activity smart shirts have been in the human performance labs since they were validated for use in 2016.

Hannah Wallace is the most recent Scot to conduct a study using Hexoskins. Intrigued by Professor Maurie Luetkemeier’s research on the Alma College marching band’s energy expenditure and physical activity, Hannah desired to conduct a similar study focusing solely on the color guard.

Her objective? Using Hexoskins to determine the level of physical activity achieved by the color guard during practices and performances. The idea was sparked by the national discussion on whether or not participating in the marching band should meet the physical education requirements at the high school level — especially with how time-consuming performing arts can be for the many students involved.

“Alma allowed me to continue participating in band while fulfilling my requirements for a degree in health science,” Hannah says. “A research project that combined these passions made it clear that this was the right study for me.”

Full Data Pack Collects Information

The purpose of a Hexoskin is simple: produce real-time results. These wireless sensor suits simultaneously gather physio-metric data while tracking the user’s breathing, respiratory function, heart rate and other vital data in real-time during a period of physical activity. The user-friendly device is worn around the torso and is comfortable enough to replace a shirt or wear under a uniform, such as a color guard uniform.

“Within a few minutes, the Hexoskin feels like another shirt that is normally worn during a workout,” says Hannah. “You can hardly tell there is a monitor that boasts a full data pack collecting information as you wear it.”

The HexoskinUsers can easily upload and dissect the data. A Hexoskin website assists with some of the analysis by providing graphs and calculated values. If you are looking to track how the human body is performing in real-time, all you need is an application on your phone.

“My favorite part on the phone application was tracking the breathing rate,” says Hannah. “The screen displays lungs inhaling and exhaling as if they were your own lungs. Sometimes I would sit there and watch my digitized lungs breathe, fascinated by the technology.”

An Edge for Graduate School

Hannah’s study proved that the color guard is well on its way to meeting the requirements for moderate to vigorous physical activity — meaning its acceptance as a physical education requirement might be right around the corner.

“With my fine arts background, finding this information was very rewarding,” says Hannah, who graduated in April 2018. “I now have scientific proof that participating in the marching band, specifically the color guard, can meet the requirements for physical activity.

“I’m so thankful for my research advisers and the technology available at Alma College,” she says. “They gave me the opportunity to conduct student-led research, providing an edge on my future graduate school applications and resumes.”

Story published on August 31, 2018