Why Teach Middle School Students about Biomedical Engineering?
Middle school students in New Haven take a general science course during their 7
grade years. These general science courses cover a wide variety of topics and disciples including, scientific inquiry, physical science, life science, earth and space science, and science, technology, and society. Under the scope of science, technology, and society the following topics are discussed: water resources, how humans affect water, protecting water resources, bacteria and food preservation, and bridges. It is this section of the curriculum that is missing a huge component of today's science, technology, and society and that is engineering related to engineer in biology, health, and medicine.
Teaching students about biomedical engineering provides a platform for students to gain real-world examples of how technological advances, influenced by scientific knowledge, affect the quality of life. Students are also provided, with this unit, a space to explore the design process. By designing a prosthetic or cast prototype students design a solution (product) to meet a human need and take into account needs and constraints (cost, time, properties of materials, safety, and aesthetic qualities).
Biomedical Repair and Regeneration
Each and everyday people encounter trauma, disease, or injury that repairs the repair and regeneration of body parts. These body parts can range from cells within one chamber of the heart to an entire limb like the leg. Biomedical engineers and doctors use a variety of technology and techniques to help their patients maintain the highest quality of life possible.
Bioengineering is a field in which artificial tissues, organs, or organ components are used to replace damaged or completely absent parts of the body.
This type of engineering includes items such as artificial limbs, heart pacemakers, stem cell therapy, balloon angioplasty, and stenting among many others.
While many prosthetics are found outside of the body, another job of engineers is to test and develop new materials that can safely be implanted into the body.
This includes artificial organs or engineered cells. Doctors have worked on repairing the human body for many decades now, but regenerative medicine is an emerging health filed that seeks to go beyond treatment to fully heal damaged tissue and organs. The use of stem cells is a very hot topic in medicine right now. And lots of time, money, and resources are being put towards researching potential uses of stem cells (See Figure 1). This unit focuses on the use of stem cells for heart repair after a myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
Figure 1. Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is currently being investigated. Illustration: "Stem cell treatments" by Mikael Häggström.