The University of Calgary is fast-tracking some first year students into the world of bioengineering during a unique, physics-based summer course being offered for the first time.

The first week of the month-long Summer Bioengineering Institute featured guest speaker Alex Gough, an Olympic luge athlete who won silver and bronze at the 2018 Winter Games, to explain realistic applications of physics concepts in the sliding sport.

"It's great to get to come in and share from more of an athlete's perspective and include some of the physics," explained Gough.

The students also built mini luge sliding tracks using tubes, boxes and balls.

"It hellps with not only just understanding the concepts and whatnot but it helps solidify that they mean something in the real world." Gough is also enrolled in her fourth year at the Schulich School of Engineering.

Course facilitators say the program is meant to prepare students for their upcoming engineering classes in hopes they pursue biomechanical work.

"It’s giving the students the opportunity to pursue engineering without that physics background," said instructor Alina Ismaguilova. "A lot of these students still have math and calculus, but they also have supplemental biology and chemistry."

Ismaguilova and co-instructor Miriam Nightingale designed the course to encourage diversity, exposing women to traditionally male dominated fields. "I think it's important for students to get their hands on and do these experiments themselves.”

Student Annemarie Summers said she was pleased to learn there is more to physics than simply mastering calculations. "You can put in numbers, you can put in a bunch of formulas but the way it feels to an athlete is a lot different." 

While others said it was the special guest speaker that brought life to the luge focussed lesson. "Seeing how someone who you see in TV is still a real person and is doing the same thing that me and all my classmates are doing (was eye-opening,)," said Alexa Grebenstein.