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Systems Biology Education Modules to Promote Computational Thinking in High School Students

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Kelsey Watts Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Kelsey Watts is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Bioengineering at Clemson Univerity. She is currently working on developing Systems Biology outreach modules focused on computational skill development for Clemson's Emerging Scholars program.

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Will Richardson Clemson University

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Dr. Richardson received a B.S. in Biological Engineering with high honors from the University of Arkansas in 2007, and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2012 with training in the Vascular Mechanics Lab under Dr. Jimmy Moore. His research at Texas A&M developed novel cell-stretching devices for in vitro analysis of cellular responses to spatially varying mechanical strains on 2D and 3D polymer constructs. Subsequent to graduate work, Dr. Richardson was awarded an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Dr. Jeff Holmes and Dr. Jeff Saucerman at the University of Virginia in the Cardiac Biomechanics and Cardiac Systems Biology labs. At UVa, he helped develop computational models of cell-matrix mechanobiology in order to understand the processes regulating myocardial infarct scar structure. In 2016, he joined Clemson University Department of Bioengineering as an Assistant Professor and started the Systems Mechanobiology Lab. The lab’s expertise is matrix systems mechanobiology, focusing on the use of in silico systems models to identify cell and matrix processes dominating collagen structure regulation, conducted alongside in vitro cell-stretching experiments to test model predictions and engineer designs for fibrotic control in vivo. He has received several honors including the Richard Skalak Best Paper Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the University of Arkansas College of Engineering Early Career Award. Dr. Richardson loves exploring the wonders of nature outside the lab as well, especially hiking and camping with his wife and children.

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Integrating physical active learning exercises with computational simulation has been shown to enhance students’ computational thinking skills. We have created four education modules for high school outreach focused on various physiological and disease phenomena. All modules include three major components: (1) Hands-on Modeling: an activity to provide a hands-on or role-playing approach to the phenomena being modeled. (2) Virtual Model Tutorial: a guided tutorial to develop a NetLogo model of the biological or disease phenomena. (3) Virtual Model Creation: a deliverable in which students create their own virtual model by making modifications to the model they created in the tutorial.

Watts, K., & Richardson, W. (2021, July), Systems Biology Education Modules to Promote Computational Thinking in High School Students Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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