Blue ribbon for a gamer

RTR student’s science fair project concludes there can be health benefit to playing video games

Submitted photo Russell-Tyler-Ruthton fifth-grader Alex Streeter stands in front of his blue ribbon science fair project.

RUTHTON — Being among the blue ribbon winners at a science fair is great, and getting recognition — and cool stuff — from a major electronics company is pretty great as well.

For his science fair project, Alex Streeter, a fifth-grader at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, did an experiment testing if video games can be healthy. He measured the heart rate of his parents, Stephanie and Shawn Streeter, and his own heart rate while playing a virtual reality video game, “Beat Saber.”

His mother posted pictures of his display board details and received 130 comments from fellow gamers such as “…he did all the steps right, had a control, different variables, a full list. It’s a legit experiment. I hope he got an A” and “That game can be an insane workout. The first time I played I struggled to walk the day after due to sore muscles.”

The post on a subreddit — a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit — also caught the attention of Logitech, a company that designs consumer technology and is responsible for computer peripherals such as the infrared cordless mouse, the thumb-operated trackball, and the laser mouse.

Through contacting Streeter’s mother, Logitech sent a big box filled with gaming apparatus worth an estimated $800 — a steering wheel with shifter, gaming keyboard, a mouse, a T-shirt, a “really cool” wireless headset and a “USB thing,” he said.

It all started on March 8, when the RTR fifth-graders presented experiments at the science fair at the elementary school in Ruthton.

Streeter had looked over a sheet of project suggestions from his teacher, Kayla Thooft, who teaches fifth-grade math and science. The gaming and heart rates idea caught his eye.

“Essentially, she handed out a packet full of ideas and I chose that one,” Streeter said.

For his experiment, “I tested the heart rates on an iPhone app,” he said. “It’s called Samsung Health. It has a flashlight thing that’s a heart rate detector-thing you put on your fingertip and hold it there for 30 seconds and it gives you an average reading.”

He tested his mom’s, his dad’s, and his own heart rate at 10-minute intervals three times while playing the video game, “Beat Saber,” on a Sony Playstation 4. “Beat Saber” is a virtual reality game in which the player slashes blocks representing musical beats.

“Stress is a little bit of a factor, but that’s the smallest one so we used (Beat Saber),” he said.

Because it’s a VR game, the player has to move — wave a “lightsaber” around — to play the game.

“The highest heart rate was my mom’s at 161,” he said.

Streeter said a healthy resting heart rate is between 60-85 for adults. He included himself in that because “at my size, I’m effectively an adult. It’s actually recommended that you raise your heart rate by 50 percent and you should do about a half hour of exercise five days a week.”

He concluded that there can be a health benefit to playing video games.

“We noticed playing ‘Beat Saber’ that we peaked in heart rate after 20 minutes,” Streeter said. “We got tired and our heart rates lowered around the 30-minute mark.”

The Streeters tried adding 1-pound wrist weights while playing, but “it was no fun and two-thirds of us quit.”

He posted the results on a display board at the science fair. Each student’s display was judged three times by three community members, said Thooft.

Streeter’s project was among the 23 out of 56 that earned blue ribbons, Thooft said, and “14 of those 23 chose to go on to the regional science fair April 27 in Mankato including Alex.”