Public Library of Science
School of Medical and Health Sciences/ Centre of Exercise and Sport Research
Compliant bamboo poles have long been used for load carriage in Asian cultures. Although this custom differs from Western conventions of rigid body attachments (e.g. backpack), potential benefits include reduced peak shoulder forces as well as metabolic transport cost savings. Evidence that carrying a flexible pole benefits locomotion remains mixed, perhaps in part because the properties of pole design (e.g. bamboo material, structural geometry, etc.) have largely been neglected. These properties influence vibrational forces and consequently, the energy required by the user to manage the oscillations. We collected authentic bamboo poles from northern Vietnam and characterized their design parameters. Four poles were extensively studied in the lab (load-deflection testing, resonance testing, and computed tomography scans of three-dimensional geometry), and 10 others were tested at a rural Vietnamese farm site (basic measures of form and resonance). A mass-spring-damper model was used to characterize a relationship between resonant frequency (which affects the energetics of the pole-carrier system) and pole properties concerning stiffness, damping, etc. Model predictions of resonant frequencies agreed well with empirical data. Although measured properties suggest the poles are not optimally designed to reduce peak oscillation forces, resonant frequencies are within range of a typical human walking cadence, and this is likely to have a consequence on locomotion energetics.
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