One of the greatest privileges of my college experience has been Project-in-a-Box. This is an outreach program geared towards visiting local 3rd – 6th grade classrooms and teaching students about biotechnology such as prosthetic hands, stents, heart valves, and DNA. We carry these projects around in a box across the University Park neighborhood, hence the name Project-in-a-Box. Our mission is to inspire interest in the biomedical engineering field, foster problem-solving skills, and stimulate collaboration in teams.
This past semester, we have greatly enjoyed implementing our lesson plans and teaching hundreds of students from numerous local classrooms. We currently offer our main lesson plan, the Prosthetic Hand Project, and have a couple more lesson plans in the making. These projects provide background information on the topic of interest and enable students to interact with physical materials to come up with specific designs and functions. The duration of these one-time lessons is about an hour. Our lesson plan for the prosthetic hand is divided into three phases.
- The first phase involves a classroom activity. I introduce the term biomedical engineering to the class by breaking it down into individual parts (bio, medical, and engineering) and then we collectively piece the terms together to form a coherent definition that students can comprehend. We use an example patient profile of a firefighter with a missing hand and guide the class in their thought process for a personalized prosthetic.
- In the next phase, students break out into smaller groups that are led by other Project-in-a-Box committee members. The kids then get to spend a few minutes brainstorming and planning their design. Once materials are passed out, each group gets to build their own project based upon their design.
- In the last phase, the class is brought together once more by the Project Lead. Each group shares their hand, each member explaining one aspect of the design and its purpose. This exposes the students to the typical design process of engineering: coming up with a functional design and constructing it from only a specific amount of materials, to simulate real-world limitations.
Project-in-a-Box is a fairly new program, and we’re just getting started. Our goal is to expand the types of projects we offer. The prosthetic hand project is currently our most developed and most requested lesson plan. This focuses more on the traditional, mechanical side of biomedical engineering. Our goal is to design other projects which focus on other components of biomedical engineering so we can showcase the diversity within the field. We also aim to expand our reach and visit even more schools to get kids in the spirit of biomedical engineering!
Community service opportunities are one of the many types of resources the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering provides its members! Check out my blog on the Santa Monica Beach Social I organized for our members last year!