Making a Real-World Impact Through Biomedical Innovation

Tammy Martin is an instructor at Mt. Vernon Township High School in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, and teaches in both the Health Science Department and the PLTW Biomedical Science Department. This is Tammy’s ninth year teaching and sixth year teaching PLTW Biomedical Science. Tammy became a Master Teacher in Human Body Systems (HBS) three years ago.

Mt. Vernon Township High School offered the PLTW Biomedical Science capstone class Biomedical Innovation (BI) for the first time during the 2015-16 school year. It was a huge accomplishment to implement the first class of the program’s sequence – Principles of Biomedical Science (PBS) – five years ago. But to eventually offer all four years of the PLTW Biomedical Science curriculum to our students feels like an even more incredible success. At our school, I am the sole instructor for this program, and I absolutely love it! It has brought a challenging class to our students and one that they walk away from truly enriched with knowledge and skills!

I wanted to talk about one fourth-year student’s final project. His sister had recently suffered a fractured vertebra in a car accident the summer before, and it changed not only her life but also the life of his family. He spent countless hours at the hospital during her recovery. During this time, he decided that becoming an emergency room physician was his goal.

During the second semester of BI, the student was trying to come up with a final project. I encouraged him to use the experience and knowledge that he had gained watching his sister go through all of the stages of healing. He used his knowledge from that and from the previous three years in PLTW Biomedical Science and came up with a device that would help not only his sister but also other paraplegics.

Throughout her recovery, it was eye-opening to see the "normal" day-to-day activities that we accomplish without even thinking about what it would be like to not be able to do them. One thing that he focused on was the inability to wheel yourself to your car, at night, while using a light source to see. When you are in a wheelchair, you need both of your hands to move, and that leaves nothing to hold your light. Most of us have cellular devices that have flashlights that we can easily maneuver. But without available hands, that makes it a bit difficult.

The device he developed and prototyped was an LED light bar that would easily attach to the person’s lower leg. He attached a toggle switch, and it was ready to go. His sister modeled the device and even tested the product! I was so impressed and proud of my student for not only using his knowledge of biomedical design, but also taking his project to the next level by identifying a real-life situation and applying his skills to develop a very usable device.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.