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With round one of the clinical trial complete, it was time to share the news about all of my amazing discoveries! After thoroughly saturating facebook and instagram, I had no choice but to expand out into the real world. No wait! There was one last stop before that... the strange, the esoteric, the not quite real world realm of... conferences.
I was amazed, and tongue tied, when a handful of participants could not consistently make the poi go around in circles after one, two, even three lessons. It's something I have always taken for granted, as people typically pick up poi for the first time and just get it going, without any instruction. But some of my participants were struggling...
A clinical trial about poi and well-being! Sounds great, but, how am I going to tell if poi has an effect on health, you ask? Well, I'm going to measure things of course! Things like balance and grip strength and coordination. I'm going to measure them before the participants learn poi (pre-tests), and after the participants learn poi (post-tests), and see if there are any differences between the two sets of data.
With the long ethics approval journey behind me, the rest of the pieces could finally fall into place: secure a space for the study, check. Purchase cognitive tests, check. Make an army of poi, check. Find participants, no problem, I'll just send a quick email to the registrar at the Centre for Brain Research. They have a huge database of people eager to participate in studies like mine...
With the arrival and approval of Ms. A, the 6 month signature quest seemed to be drawing to a close. The only thing left to do was wait for Ms. A to email my Maori advisor, to let him know of her support. While awaiting this transaction, I asked my PhD supervisor to check with the ethics committee about a few minor things on my application. I wanted it to be flawless before submitting it. After a week or so of silence from all parties, I became worried and restless. What if Ms. A changed her mind?
By the end of June I was so ahead in my research, that my PhD supervisor looked me in the eyes and said "TAKE A BREAK!" There was, in fact, not much more that could be done. The plans for my clinical trial were in place, I was running a crowd funding campaign to cover the costs, and I had nearly finished my ethics forms, minus one small detail...I needed the signature of a Maori advisor. Enter *drum roll*...Mr. X.
In between investigating the cultural roots and implications of poi spinning (read: embarrassing myself at various Māori events and in front of various Māori people), I am also planning a poi trial to investigate the effects of poi on physical and cognitive ability (read: embarrassing myself in front of scientists).
I had been introduced to Mr. X once before, to request permission to sit in on his Kapa Haka class about Māori culture. The introduction began with Mr. X staring sternly and intently through my eyes and into my soul for an abnormally long amount of time, was followed by an uncomfortable laughter, and concluded with a brief "you can sit in on my class."
They always say the grass is greener on the other side, I just never realized by "other side" they literally meant the other side of the world. The grass is very green in New Zealand. And the sky very blue. And the people very friendly. And the PhD in poi off to a very good start. After a month of settling in, it was finally time to learn how to spin poi. Māori style.
I realized one day, as my sister and I casually discussed the future of our lives, that there was a deadline for this vague idea I'd had for years about going back to school. And that deadline was based on something completely meaningless to me, yet very important to the process...the GRE.
I woke up that morning energized and perhaps slightly disillusioned…we were sure to win! No one else had such an innovative idea that could reach so many populations. I arrived at the hackathon to find my collaborators in a similarly lighthearted mood.
As I peered into Hack/Reduce for the first time, I was transported back to my junior high lunch room. Where would I sit amongst the rows of long tables? What if no one wants to sit by me? What if no one likes the Orbitar? What if… I don’t want any of this free stuff?