Senior high school students often struggle with recognizing the link between human health care and engineering, resulting in limited recruitment for post-secondary biomedical engineering (BME) study. To enhance student comprehension and recruitment in the field, BME graduate student instructors have developed and launched Discovery, a collaborative high school outreach program that promotes and engages students in the application of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts. The program offers a unique, immersive semester-long practicum that complements classroom curriculum but is delivered within university facilities. Further to this, BME graduate students have the opportunity to develop and deliver STEM curriculum directly aligned with their thesis research. The overall goal of the program is to immerse high school science students in inquiry-based experiential learning in a post-secondary BME environment, enhancing BME literacy and stimulating pursuit of post-secondary STEM study.
This program is a collaboration between graduate student instructors and science educators from one local public high school. Each semester, approximately 65 secondary STEM students, 4 educators, 15 graduate student instructors, and 2 faculty members are involved in Discovery. Small student groups work in a capstone format, incorporating iterative design principles and the scientific method to address thematically-related but subject-specific research projects that satisfy curriculum requirements. Educators assign 10-15% of semester course grades to deliverables and quantitatively assess student comprehension. The semester culminates in a final symposium where students present their findings in scientific poster format.
Discovery is unique in its delivery of iterative design to a class cohort accompanied by their educator and carries the benefit of removing socio-economic barriers to student learning and success. High school educators further benefit through co-instruction with graduate instructors within university facilities, increasing student comfort within laboratory environments. High-school educators have identified difficulties with student involvement in the regular classroom. Comparatively, to date, all students have successfully engaged in the various Discovery activities. During the pilot year, > 85% of participants exhibited perfect Discovery attendance; these students demonstrated absence for ~ 10% of classes in their school environment. Students view this experience as an integral part of their classroom curriculum and are both excited and engaged in their scientific outcomes. In post-hoc surveys, over 75% of student participants stated that this program impacted their pursuit of future studies in STEM, indicating a greater understanding of BME theory and practice, while anecdotally graduate instructors indicated that their pedagogical training greatly improved.
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