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HYPOTHEkids Maker Lab: A Summer Program in Engineering Design for High School Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Out-of-school-time Engineering: Implications for Underrepresented Students

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Aaron Kyle Columbia University

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Aaron Kyle, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University. Dr. Kyle teaches undergraduate laboratory courses, bioinstrumentation and Senior Design. Senior Design is Dr. Kyle’s major teaching focus and he has worked diligently to continually enhance undergraduate design. He has taught or co-taught the BME Design class since January 2010. Dr. Kyle has spearheaded the incorporation of global health technologies into Senior Design, leading the development of neonatal care technologies for use in Uganda. In 2013, in coordination with the Harlem Biospace, he created the Hk Maker Lab as an opportunity to introduce students from underserved communities to biomedical engineering and engineering design. The creation of this program has engendered an increased interest in STEM education for secondary school students. Accordingly, he is increasing his efforts to provide impactful education opportunities for these students. Dr. Kyle received is B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Kettering University ('02) and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue University ('07)

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Rachel Lauré Sattler Columbia University, Biomedical Engineering Department

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Originally from a small town in Nevada, Rachel graduated salutatorian of her high school class and then pursued a decade long career as a professional dancer. Post performing career, she returned to higher education, graduating summa cum laude from Fordham University in 2014, with a B.S. in Engineering Physics. She has since completed her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, where she is currently a PhD candidate under the guidance of Professor X. Edward Guo in the Bone Bioengineering Laboratory. She is passionate about both her research and teaching, pursing opportunites to mentor and guide the next generation of engineers with gusto.

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Hanzhi T. Zhao Columbia University, Department of Biomedical Engineering


Christine Kovich HYPOTHEkids

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Christine Kovich is Co-Founder of Harlem Biospace, a biotech incubator for early stage life science companies. She is also Executive Director of HYPOTHEkids, the K-12 STEM education non-profit with a mission to provide underserved students with hands-on science and engineering educational and mentorship experiences such that they can thrive in the high tech economy of tomorrow. Christine spent the previous 14 years in strategy and product development in the payments industry, most recently creating partnerships with technology start-ups at MasterCard. Prior to that she worked with large consumer brands like PepsiCo and M&M/Mars in Toronto and Moscow. She has an International Masters in Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, Canada and a Bachelor of Education from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

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The continued emergence of STEM careers and emphasis on engineering in the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) spurs the need for early (P-12) engineering education. There are persistent deficits in engineering education, for underrepresented minority groups and in lower-resource schools. To address these deficits, we have created the HYPOTHEkids (Hk) Maker Lab, a six week summer program (120+ hours) in which high school students, specifically those from underrepresented minority groups and economically disadvantaged New York City high schools, are introduced to the biomedical engineering design process. Biomedical engineering design is an appealing mode of instruction because it entails the practical application of science, mathematics and technology knowledge that students have accrued throughout their education, giving them a real-world appreciation for these skills and fostering continued interest in STEM. The Hk Maker Lab, which is free for all participants, engages students who would not normally have an engineering-focused pre-college experience.

During the first three weeks of the program, students are taught design through a series of interactive workshops. Students learn needs identification; customer discovery and design inputs; brainstorming to devise solutions; and proof of concept testing. They are also introduced to the entrepreneurial aspects of device innovation, including the formation of business models. The workshops are complemented by daily, hands-on laboratory sessions that introduce biomedical concepts and basic engineering skills, including instrumentation design and testing, programming (MATLAB and Arduino), and fabrication techniques (laser cutting, 3-D printing). The second half of the program is devoted to the participants creating testable prototypes that satisfy the needs uncovered during the design workshops. The Hk Maker Lab culminates in students presenting their innovations at a final pitch event, where the projects are evaluated by a panel of judges from academia, industry, and entrepreneurial sectors.

The Hk Maker Lab has been conducted in the summers of 2014 and 2015, with 24 participants in each group. We have achieved significant underrepresented minority participation: 52% of the students have been Hispanic or African American, 50% have been female. Hk Maker Lab participants have successfully developed prototypes ranging from a re-chargeable LED array hospital light to provide illumination in low resource hospitals, to a fall detection and alarm device for the elderly, to a device to sterilize used hypodermic needles to prevent secondary infections from needle-sticks. The program has had a positive impact on students’ interest in engineering. More than 90% of our students attribute their interest in pursuing engineering in college to their participation in the Hk Maker Lab. Program alumni have gone on to internships in biotechnology and/or are currently pursuing engineering undergraduate majors.

We propose that biomedical engineering design provides critical pre-college engineering education for groups underrepresented in STEM. This paper provides a framework for the creation of an engineering design-focused program. Through the Hk Maker Lab, we have devised a biodesign curriculum that can be readily taught to high school students and best practices for implementing this type of program.

Kyle, A., & Sattler, R. L., & Zhao, H. T., & Kovich, C. (2016, June), HYPOTHEkids Maker Lab: A Summer Program in Engineering Design for High School Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25511

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