The Bioengineering Experience
Written by Dr Tina Chowdhury, Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Materials Science.
We invited children (age 10 years) from St Joseph’s in the Park to experience real, hands on lab activities in bioengineering at the Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Materials Science. The event encouraged children to be science and engineering investigators for the day. For example, the children learnt about the importance of science, engineering and materials and why scientists and engineers work together in collaborative research.
In the lab, the children played tug of war with a tendon. The children squashed materials containing cells with mechanical devices and helped to dissect cartilage tissue from a cow’s knee joint.
These exciting activities in bioengineering were developed for children that met National Curriculum requirements for key stage 4. The teachers were kept in the loop of what we were developing and concepts were introduced to children in the classroom before investigations in the lab.
The event also helped to change the children’s perceptions, who realised that girls could one day be bioengineers. For example, one child said:
“Now I know that a bioengineer is not a crazy scientist on a TV show, but can be someone from all ages, a boy or girl, who works in a lab to try and discover the body and learn more about it and even grow cells and cartilage to help people.”
Other children said:
“I learnt how complicated the human knee is. It has got so much function in it, it is very clever”
“It was kind of gross and cool how the bioengineer cut open the knee joint and you could see the cartilage”
“On TV shows, scientists are usually men. But I have seen more women today”
“I used to think that engineering and science was like Albert Einstein because they were mental. But the bioengineers here are a lot nicer and a lot calmer”
“It’s really fascinating in a way because there are so many things you never knew, and now after this really fun and interesting visit, which I highly recommend, it has just exploded into my mind”
The children presented scientific posters to families and peers at an 'inspiring girls in science' event hosted on 4th June at St Joseph’s in the Park. Professional women from academia and industry presented their research in science and engineering and the children participated in workshops. The event was featured by The Telegraph.
The children’s posters were presented at the Science on Stage international STEM teaching festival, hosted by Queen Mary University of London in June. One child, Laylah Gray (age 5 years) from Infant 1 at St Joseph's in the Park, helped to present a workshop in bioengineering and experienced innovating teaching resources in STEM.
In the long term, we will develop teaching and promotional materials in bioengineering for schools that meets National Curriculum requirements and integrate this with on-line teaching resources such as the virtual lab. If you would like advice on how to set up a science engagement activity, the best places for resources are Sciencegrrl or STEMNET.
Events like the bioengineering experience are great for children since it takes the science out of the classroom and gives children a real opportunity to be investigators and expand their horizon with hands on lab activities.
Dr Tina Chowdhury , Institute of Bioengineering
For more information on The Bioengineering Experience and Tina's other work visit her blog.
The Bioengineering Experience was funded by a CPE Large Award, the 2015 round is currently open until August 3rd 2015.
Written by Dr Tina Chowdhury,
School of Engineering and Materials Science,
Queen Mary, University of London