(768f) Bridging the Gap Between Biomaterials Research and High School Students Using New Advances In Communication Technology | AIChE

(768f) Bridging the Gap Between Biomaterials Research and High School Students Using New Advances In Communication Technology


Schoener, C. A. - Presenter, University of Texas at Austin
Schoener, M. M. - Presenter, Akins High School

High school students lack the general knowledge and understanding
of what biomaterials are, what they are used for, and the potential they have
to greatly improve patient care and comfort. Furthermore, these high school
students are unaware of what graduate school is, the types
of research performed, and how these graduate institutions are the pipelines of
ideas and concepts that advance science and technology. This gap between high
school and post-bachelor degrees is creating educational voids which may lead
to the stunted growth or deceleration of biomaterial innovation. To improve the
future outlook and enrollment of graduate students in the field of
biomaterials, we have implemented a program connecting high school students
from Akins New Tech High School from the Austin Independent School District in
Texas and chemical engineering graduate students from the University of Texas
at Austin, using new advancements in communication technology.

We designed the project to be educational for both the
participating graduate students and high school students. For the high school
students, the primary focus was to promote the understanding of? and spark the
interest in? biomaterials. The secondary focus was to educate high school
students about academic life and how to effectively prepare for their next
educational step. Graduate students also benefited by improving their ability
to communicate research to a non-collegiate audiences and enhance management

The project was designed as follows. 1) Chemical engineering
graduate students developed 2-3 page written summaries of their thesis research,
including any embedded visual explanations, appropriate for high school
audiences. Subsets of these graduate students were filmed explaining and
physically illustrating their research project using a FLipTM
video camera. The short vignettes were compiled to create an introductory video
explaining to the high school student what would be their responsibilities and
focus on immersion into biomaterials and graduate research. 2) A single
research summary was assigned to groups of 3 or 4 high school students for
reading and review. The groups collectively generated a series of 10-15
questions focused on the research they read as well as general overview
questions on what is and what it is like to attend graduate school. 3) The high
school students then used these questions to interview graduate student using skypeTM, an online video chat application. 4)
For a final evaluation of comprehension and understanding, the high school
students were required to write an essay about this experience and present
their understanding of the research project using PREZITM, a zooming
presenting editor.

At the completion of this program we had 78 high school student
participants and 9 graduate student participants. 55 of the high school students
were underrepresented minorities, 49 were economically disadvantaged, 16 were
English language deficient, and 7 needed special education services. 7 of the
graduate students were actively pursuing doctorals in
the field of biomaterials. Being the first time this was attempted, it was
widely regarded as a success by the Akins High School faculty. It successfully
enlightened students about biomaterials and graduate research. As for the
graduate students, the online interviews help them self-evaluate their research
and the ability to clearly explain research topics to a non-academic audience.
This project is geographically independent as it functions on online tools,
does not require significant financial support or significant time resources to
complete; therefore, implementing this program into current biomaterials
research programs can be simple and be capable of outreaching many levels of
education including primary and secondary schools as
was as undergraduates at collegiate institutions.