Are fidget cubes worth the fuss?
That’s the question Taylor Neiser ’18 wants to answer through hands-on research.
She’s one of several University of Lynchburg exercise physiology students who have started working on their senior research projects, a core component of the senior experience that demonstrates the ability to think scientifically and work independently.
Seniors in the major select their own topics and design experiments with advice from faculty members. Beginning in the fall, they recruit individuals to participate in the research and start collecting data.
Neiser’s interest in fidget tools — such as spinners and cubes — began during the summer, when she saw an occupational therapist give a fidget device to a child on the autism spectrum to help the child focus on a task.
“After seeing this and having to think about a research topic, I began to wonder about modern-day fidget tools, such as the fidget cube and ever-popular fidget spinner,” Neiser said. “I knew that some research has been done on the fidget spinner, but I was more intrigued with how various fidget tools would affect someone’s concentration, especially in a distracted environment.”
Her research involves having volunteers complete tasks with and without a fidget device. Neiser said she finds data collecting fun and interesting, and she has found “many people interested in participating in my study, and they tell me it is because they think my study is ‘interesting’ and they are curious about fidget use as well.”
Research has not supported the use of fidget spinners, but Nieser said she has a hunch that the spinners are more of a distraction. She hopes her research will identify benefits of other fidget tools. “I do believe that some people need more sensory integration than others to function more efficiently, or to calm them in order to complete their necessary tasks,” she said. “I hope that I can supply more evidence to why fidget tools are not some ‘fad’ or trend, and are effective.”
Emily Maxwell ’18 is researching the effects of a core stabilization training program on the performance of firefighters in functional tasks. Having grown up in a military family, she has a strong interest in working with tactical populations. An internship last summer with Marine Special Operations Command sparked her curiosity about core stabilization workouts.
She recruited about 20 firefighters from several local departments to participate in her project. She is conducting fitness tests before and after a four-week period, during which the firefighters continue their fitness routines. She hopes her work will help her and fire departments understand what goes into an optimal exercise routine.
“I hope to provide stations with data and results that encourage departments to create more efficient training programs that will promote optimal performance in their firefighters throughout their careers,” Maxwell said.
“The data collection and researching experience is completely new to me. It is an awesome experience … to interact with members of the Lynchburg community, as well as share the knowledge with them that I have learned over the past few years as an exercise physiology student.”
Maxwell said the research experience has helped her learn more independently. “It provides you with the ability to gain confidence in skills that interest you and are related to your field and has provided me with the opportunity to dive into more knowledge and experience a topic from multiple perspectives of reading other articles, while interpreting my own data,” she said.