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IBBME Discovery: Biomedical Engineering-based Iterative Learning in a High School STEM Curriculum (Evaluation)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

PCEE Biomedical Engineering

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Locke Davenport Huyer University of Toronto

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Neal I. Callaghan University of Toronto


Rami Saab University of Toronto

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I am a MASc student in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto. My research interests include medical device design, brain-computer interfaces, and algorithms for biosignal information processing. My teaching experiences include graduate level teaching assistant positions and I am currently a physics curriculum executive with the Discovery Program.

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Daniel Smieja University of Toronto

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Andrew Effat


Dawn M. Kilkenny University of Toronto

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Dawn Kilkenny earned her Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and trained as a postdoctoral fellow in Immunology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. She subsequently worked for four years as a Senior Research Specialist at the Vanderbilt Cell Imaging Resource (CISR) microscope facility before joining the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), University of Toronto as an Assistant Professor. She is currently the Associate Director, Undergraduate Programs at IBBME as well as the Associate Chair, Years 1 & 2 in the Division of Engineering Science. She serves as faculty supervisor for the Discovery initiative and is program co-director for the Igniting Youth Curiosity in STEM Program. Dawn was a 2017 Early Career Teaching Award recipient at U of T and was named the 2016 Wighton Fellow for excellence in development and teaching of laboratory-based courses in Canadian UG engineering programs.

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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.

Davenport Huyer, L., & Callaghan, N. I., & Saab, R., & Smieja, D., & Effat, A., & Kilkenny, D. M. (2018, June), IBBME Discovery: Biomedical Engineering-based Iterative Learning in a High School STEM Curriculum (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30591

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