Craft Lake City, a local non-profit, hosted their 14th Annual DIY Fest the second weekend of August. Each year, local artisans, vendors, and science exhibitors gather at the Utah State Fairpark for a weekend of art, music, science, and technology. This year, the University of Utah’s Graduate Women in Biomedical Engineering (GWBE) hosted a booth on Friday night to engage DIY Fest-goers in conversation about biomedical engineering through exploration of electromyography (EMG), providing children and adults with an opportunity to enjoy science.


GWBE volunteers demonstrated how electrodes, a mini-computer board, and a signal-sensing app could read electrical signals in a muscle. When a volunteer connected their upper arm to EMG and flexed their bicep, a large spike appeared on a screen, followed by a flat line during relaxation. People of all ages were invited to try EMG on their own arms or hands. They explored the correlation between muscle contraction and signal, the location of the muscles that the electrodes could sense, and the difficulty of true muscle relaxation. GWBE volunteers discussed the simple science concepts behind EMG and today’s applications of EMG in areas such as prosthetics and heart health. Using EMG, GWBE facilitated a fun, hands-on learning experience with technology important in biomedical engineering.


DIY Fest was educational for volunteers, too. Most of the volunteers had limited experience with EMG, so preparation for the event bolstered their understanding of the technology. Engaging with children and adults alike provided a variety of low-pressure scenarios to practice scientific communication.


Walking around DIY Fest to see the local artisan, vendor, and science scene was a bonus, but the most fun came from interactions with the community. Volunteers enjoyed the enthusiasm of participants. One volunteer “loved watching kids light up as they saw the differences in the electrical signals” that their own muscles produced. Often, the best part of an event like this is receiving questions because it shows the volunteers have shared the “excitement for engineering” with the community. Ultimately, DIY Fest provided a way for GWBE to demonstrate “how simple ideas in science can be used in cutting edge engineering,” to “interact with the Salt Lake Community,” and of course, to have fun!