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Mimicking Bone Bioscaffolds with K'NEX: Developing Student Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills (P12 Resource Exchange)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Curriculum and Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Margaret F. Bennewitz University of Pittsburgh

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Margaret Bennewitz is a NRSA F32 postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh in the Vascular Medicine Institute. During her postdoctoral studies, she has developed an in vivo multiphoton fluorescence microscopy technique for visualizing blood cell trafficking within the pulmonary microcirculation of live sickle cell disease mice. Using multiphoton microscopy, she aims to identify the cellular and molecular events promoting pulmonary vaso-occlusion in sickle cell disease mice. She is engaged in the teaching community at the university through being a member of Pitt-CIRTL. Her teaching as research project was implemented at the university’s Camp BioE for high school and middle school students last year. She received her BS degree in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007 and her PhD from Yale University in Biomedical Engineering in 2012.

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Ruben Hartogs University of Pittsburgh

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Ruben Hartogs is a junior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a degree in bioengineering with a concentration in medical devices and a minor in mechanical engineering. He is currently on co-op at Zimmer Biomet, an orthopedic medical devices and joint replacement company. Over the summer, Ruben was a counselor for the University of Pittsburgh's Camp BioE, a camp introducing middle and high school students to the concepts of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine to inspire an interest in bioengineering. There, he developed an activity to teach students about the development and applications of bioscaffolds in tissue engineering.

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Mary E. Besterfield-Sacre University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Mary Besterfield-Sacre is an Associate Professor and Fulton C. Noss Faculty Fellow in Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the Director for the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC) in the Swanson School of Engineering, and serves as a Center Associate for the Learning Research and Development Center. Her principal research is in engineering education assessment, which has been funded by the NSF, Department of Ed, Sloan, EIF, and NCIIA. Dr. Sacre’s current research focuses on three distinct but highly correlated areas – innovative design and entrepreneurship, engineering modeling, and global competency in engineering. She is currently associate editor for the AEE Journal.

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Bone can become injured by trauma or disease. The field of tissue engineering strives to replace or repair injured bone through the combination of cells and porous scaffolds made of biomaterials. This paper describes how middle school and high school teachers can introduce their students to college-level tissue engineering principles and problem solving methods using simple materials. K’NEX toy construction sets are used to mimic the construction of a bone bioscaffold, as they are durable and can yield a variety of geometrical shapes. The student learning goals include: 1) Designing and creating a scaffold that meets mechanical specifications; 2) Analyzing the role of geometry on scaffold strength; and 3) Recognizing the real-world applications of bioscaffolds. Students will develop their creativity and problem solving skills through the scaffold design and testing process.

Bennewitz, M. F., & Hartogs, R., & Besterfield-Sacre, M. E. (2016, June), Mimicking Bone Bioscaffolds with K'NEX: Developing Student Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills (P12 Resource Exchange) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25722

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