Biotech and Biomedical Exploration

Lesson 1: Introduction to Neuroscience

How Does Our Brain Send Signals to Our Body?

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Background  

All our thoughts, movements, emotions, and even the actions that we don’t think about are controlled by the nervous system, which is a complex network of nervous tissue that carries electrical messages. The nervous system is divided into two main structural parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). These two are also divided into smaller subsystems. The CNS is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. The PNS is composed by the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

All functions of the brain and the rest of the nervous system are based on communication among nerve cells, also known as neurons. The neuron or a nerve cell cannot regrow after damage. There are 100 billion neurons in the brain. Each neuron can communicate with 1,000 to 10,000 other neurons. Neurons send signals along thin fibers called axons and communicate with other cells by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters at cell-cell junctions called synapses. The synapse is necessary for information to continue traveling.

Electromyography (EMG) is detected from the skin surface in the period of muscle contraction. Muscle tissue conducts electrical potentials similar to the way nerves do. The technology of surface EMG can be applied to advance hand prosthetics.  

Learning Objectives 

Students will be able to:  

  • Identify and label the parts of a neuron and the basic structures of the nervous system
  • Describe how nerve cells transmit information from one cell to another
  • Recognize that the technology of surface EMG can be used in advanced hand prosthetics

Standards Alignment  

NGSS: HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Developing and Using Models: Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS1.A: Structure and Function: Multicellular organisms have a hierarchical structural organization, in which any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Systems and System Models: Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

CCSS: ELA-LITERACY.WHST.9-10.8: Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively;  assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question;  integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas,  avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Basic Outline

Engage (Slides 3-4)
  1. Pre-Class Activity: Students will collect information from pre-set resources to develop an understanding of the nervous system, neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitters. This activity allows students to get prepared in advance to ask and answer questions and think at a higher level during class. Guide questions: How does our brain send signals to our body? Some key words: The nervous system, Neurons, Synapses.
  2. Ask students how they react to seeing a snake. Answers may include screaming or remaining calm.  Ask students that if it takes a long time for them to respond. Remind students that the human brain is the most complex organ in the universe. The brain is in charge of the way we experience the world around us. It sends messages to our body through the nervous system. Components of the nervous system work together to conduct signals very rapidly.
  3. Explain to the students that during this class, they will focus on what a neuron looks like and how it communicates and transmits signals, and students will also explore the basic structure of the nervous system.
Explore (Slides 5-7)
  1. Ask students to use their pre-write to complete the Lab Notes handout. Each group  of students will:  (1) Label the structure of the nervous system. (2) Label the parts of neuron, and write a description to list what each part does. (3) Draw a picture to illustrate how a nerve cell transmits information to other  nerve cells.
  2. Hold a class discussion. Lead students to understand that the central nervous  system is the main control center, including the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral  system is composed of all the nerves that branch off from the brain and spine that  allow the central nervous system to communicate with the rest of the body. Remind  students that our body contains multiple systems that depend on one major type of cell, the nerve cell, also known as neurons. Neurons connect the multiple body  systems together to communicate and function as one whole unit.
  3. During the discussion, lead students to think the following questions:
  • What type of signal is transmitted in the synapse?
  • Do neurons actually touch other neurons?
  • Do all neurons look the same?
Explain (Slides 8-11)
  1. Ask students to revise their models and then hold a class discussion again. Describe how nerve cells transmit information to other nerve cells. Explain to students that messages travel only in one direction. The messages will enter a neuron through dendrites, then go through the cell body, down the axon and leave through nerve endings. Once they’re in the cell body, the message is converted to an electrochemical impulse using sodium and potassium. These chemical impulses travel from the cell body through the axon and then to nerve endings. Additionally, Neurons do not actually touch. There’s a little space between the axon of one neuron and the dendrite of another, and this space is called the synapse. The synapse is filled with fluid that helps spread neurotransmitters which are at the end of an axon. When the electricity travels down the axon it ruptures the neurotransmitters which fill the synapse and meet with the dendrites of another neuron.
  2. Explain to the students the different types of nerve cells (sensory/afferent and motor/efferent). The neurons are all similar because they all have dendrites, cell bodies, and axons. The neurons are all different because they each have different functions, and their neuronal structures are specialized to complete their function.
Elaborate (Slides 12-14)
  1. Ask students what role neurons have in our bodies and why they are so important for the function of our body systems. Lead students to understand that the neuron essentially makes up our brain and our nervous system, and it’s responsible for the thoughts, our feelings, and our sentience.
  2. Show students the video of EMG Controlled Prosthetics Limb. Ask students to think about how the prosthetic limb uses the signals from the human and controls movement.
  3. Introduce the concept of Electromyography (EMG). EMG is detected from the skin surface in the period of muscle contraction. Muscle tissue conducts electrical potentials similar to the way nerves do.
Evaluate
  1. Ask students to use a variety of materials to create their own neurons or the nervous system. This can be completed as a homework assignment.
  2. Students can be assessed by their contributions in class discussions, their accuracy, and ability to follow directions.

Lesson 2: Body Systems and the Human Hand

How Do Hands Work?

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Background 

The human body is a complex biological system involving cells, tissues, organs, and systems. Organ systems do not work in isolation. They work together to maintain a stable internal environment. There are eleven systems in the human body: skeletal system, muscular system, respiratory system, digestive system, integumentary system (skin), circulatory (or cardiovascular) system, excretory (or urinary) system, reproductive system, nervous system, lymphatic (or immune) system, and endocrine system. Each system plays different but important roles, and all of these systems cooperatively enable our bodies to function properly. A human hand is made up of more bones and moving parts than most other areas of the body. It contains a total of 27 individual bones including 8 carpal bones, 5 metacarpal bones, and 14 phalanges. Those bones are connected by joints and ligaments. The hand can be divided up into three different areas based on the joints: carpus (wrist bones), metacarpus, and fingers. Around the bones are muscles —— soft tissues that tighten and relax to move the hand. There are over 30 muscles in the hand, working together in a highly complex way. Tendons are cordlike soft tissues that adhere muscle to bone. The muscles and skin of the hand are supplied by three nerves, including the radial nerve, the median nerve, and the ulnar nerve. Nerves send and receive messages, allowing us to feel and direct movement.

Learning Objectives 

 Students will be able to:  

  • Label the parts of the human hand and the body systems they belong to 
  • Explain how the human hand work and why multiple body systems work  together in the hand  
  • Compare the parts of the human hand to the parts of the Robotic Hand  

Standards Alignment  

NGSS: HS-LS1-2: Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Developing and Using Models: Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS1.A: Structure and Function: Multicellular organisms have a hierarchical structural organization, in which any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Systems and System Models: Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

CCSS:

ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.4: Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.

ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.7: Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.

Basic Outline  

Engage (Slides 3-10)
  1. Ask students to consider the everyday activities that they use their hands for. Students may say playing video games, typing on the phone, brushing the teeth, etc. Remind students that our hands can do everything from very delicate movements to feats of strength so we can perform a large number of tasks.
  2. Review the systems of the body and their parts as a class or in groups. Ask students to think how the hands work.
  • Skeletal System: provides structure to the body
    • Bones: provide structural rigidity
    • Ligaments: connect bones to each other
  • Muscular System: allows movement of the body
    • Muscles: contract to create movement
    • Tendons: connect muscles and bones
  • Respiratory System: allows for gas exchange in animals and plants between  body tissues and the atmosphere
    • Lungs: remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream
  • Circulatory System: circulates blood to different tissues of the body
    • Heart: pumps blood through the body
    • Veins: carry deoxygenated blood toward the heart
    • Arteries: carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart
  • Digestive System: breaks down foods so that matter and energy can be  absorbed by the body
    • Stomach: collects food after it is eaten and applies acids and enzymes to digest food
    • Small intestine: absorbs nutrients and minerals from food
    • Large intestine: removes water from remaining food matter creating solid waste
  • Nervous System: transmits signals allowing movement and detection of  sensations
    • Brain: sends signals to and receives signals from the body
    • Spinal cord: nerves that travel from the brain down the spine
    • Nerves: carry signals to and from the brain and the spinal cord
  • Excretory System: eliminates waste from the body
    • Skin: removes excess water and salts from the body in the form of sweat
    • Liver: removes toxins from the bloodstream
    • Kidneys: remove materials from the blood in the form of urine
    • Large intestine: removes water from remaining food matter creating solid waste
    • Lungs: remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream
Explore (Slides 11-14)
  1. Ask students to label the parts of the skeletal system, the muscular system, and the nervous system in their Lab Notes handout. Then hold a class discussion to check the answers.
  2. Ask students to compare the parts of the human hand to the parts of the Robotic Hand. Each group will:
    (1) Use the remote to control the movements of the Robotic Hand.
    (2) Take note of how these movements are similar to the movements of the human hand.
    (3) Compare the parts of the human hand to the parts of the Robotic Hand.
    (4) Label the exploded view diagrams of the Robotic Hand with the human body part equivalent in Lab Notes handout.
    (5) Record which body systems are represented in the Robotic Hand in their Lab Notes handout.
    (6) Note the following body parts present in the robotic “body”:
    • Bones (specifically plastic finger parts)
    • Tendons (fishing wire strings)
    • Ligaments (rubber joints on the fingers)
    • Muscles (servo motors)
    • Nerves (wires)
    • Brain (remote control)

(7) Note the following body systems present in the robotic “body”:

    • Skeletal (plastic fingers, rubber joints)
    • Muscular (servo motors, fishing wire strings)
    • Nervous (remote control, wires)
Explain (Slides 15-16) 
  1. Students will explain why they labeled each part of the Robotic Hand with the body parts and systems they chose. Provide time for students to compare their ideas with those of others and revise their thinking.
  2. Introduces terminology and alternative explanations after students express their ideas.
Elaborate (Slide 17) 

Encourage students to understand that each body system plays a role in the body. The bones provide rigidity, while the muscles provide flexibility and the nervous system provides the information to allow movement. Each system performs a specific function, and all of these systems are important. Without any one system, the function of the hand would be limited so all systems work together to ensure functionality.

Evaluate

Students can be assessed by their contributions in class discussions, their accuracy, and ability to follow directions.

 
Glossary of Terms 
  • Bones: Rigid organs that give mammals’ bodies structure and support. 
  • Brain: The organ that sends signals to and receives signals from the body. 
  • Carpals: The eight bones of the wrist. 
  • Collateral Ligaments: Finger joint ligaments that allow the fingers to bend. 
  • Flex Tendons: Tendons of the fingers that cause the fingers to flex. 
  • Flexor Muscles: Muscles of the forearm attached to the flex tendons. 
  • Hypothenar Muscles: Muscles of the palm of the hand on the pinky finger side of the hand. 
  • Ligaments: Connective tissues that attach bones to each other. 
  • Medial Nerve: Nerve of the hand between the radial and ulnar nerves. 
  • Metacarpals: Bones connecting the phalanges to the carpals. 
  • Muscles: Tissues that contract to create movement in the body.
  • Nerve: Tissues that carry signals to and from the brain and the spinal cord.
  • Phalanges: Bones of the fingers and thumb.  
  • Radius: Bone of the forearm that is closest to the thumb side of the hand. 
  • Radial Nerve: Nerve of the hand that is closest to the radius bone side of the hand. 
  • Spinal Cord: Nerves that travel from the brain down the spine. 
  • Tendons: Connective tissues that connect muscles to bones. 
  • Thenar Muscles: Muscles of the palm of the hand on the thumb side of the hand.  
  • Ulna: Bone of the forearm that is closest to the pinky finger side of the hand. 
  • Ulnar Nerve: Nerve of the hand closest to the ulnar bone side of the hand.  

Lesson 3: Brain Machine Interface

Can a Machine Read My Mind?

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Background

A brain–computer interface (BCI) is a direct communication between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device. It is also commonly known as neural-control interface (NCI), direct neural interface (DNI), mind-machine interface (MMI), or brain-machine interface (BMI). This technology is based on to sense, transmit, analyze, and apply the language of neurons. BMIs are often used as assisted living devices for individuals with motor or sensory impairments. Brain-machine interfaces can be classified into three main groups: invasive, partially invasive, and non-invasive. In invasive techniques, special devices are inserted directly into the human brain by a critical surgery. In partially-invasive, devices are inserted into the skull on the top of the human brain. Non-invasive BMI systems capture signals without any implantation in the patient’s brain. The detection of brain signals is achieved through electrodes placed on the scalp.

An EEG-based brain-machine interface is the most preferred type of non-invasive BMI for studying. Scientists are using different machine learning models to test out the performance of the decoder when determining different types of signals receiving from the EEG (electroencephalography). Its goal is to utilize machine learning to better recognize different types of EEG signals and optimize the performance of applications that are involved with BMI.

Learning Objectives 

Students will be able to:

  • Recognize the basics of Brain-Machine Interface
  • Develop a proposal for a solution to a real-world problem using Brain-Machine technology
  • Analyze criteria and constraints that account for societal needs and wants when using a new technology

Standards Alignment  

NGSS: HS-ETS1-1: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Asking Questions and Defining Problems: Analyze complex real-world problems by specifying criteria and constraints for successful solutions.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems:
    – Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.
    – Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World: New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology.

Basic Outline  

Engage (Slides 3-21)
  1. Review the basic pathway for a nerve impulse described by the stimulus-response model. Remind students that every time, we think, move or feel, neurons are at work. Small electric signals that move from neuron to neuron are doing the work.
  2. Introduce the brain-machine interface (BMI) with the technology behind it and the history. BMI are systems that allow communication between the brain and various machines. More information can be found on the slides.
  3. Introduce the types of BMI. Tell students that there are three types of BMI: non-invasive, partially invasive, and invasive. Invasive BMIs are implanted directly into the grey matter of the brain during neurosurgery. Partially Invasive BMI devices are implanted inside the skull but rest outside the brain rather than within the grey matter. Non-Invasive BMIs do not involve neurosurgery. The detection of brain signals is achieved through electrodes placed on the scalp. They are just like wearable virtual reality devices.
  4. Show students the picture to illustrate the different layers of the brain and where the signal is taken from. Give a brief introduction of EEG (electroencephalography).
  5. Ask students what fields the BMI can be applied to, and then introduce the applications of BMI (e.g., medical, communication and control, gaming and virtual reality, and smart home control). Tell students that one of the most exciting areas of BMI research is the development of devices that can be controlled by thoughts. BMI can provide a useful platform for the people with physical disabilities to conveniently perform certain tasks in our society.
Explore (Slide 22)

Tell students that today human faces a lot of challenges, and new technologies can improve the quality of life and have deep impacts on society and the environment. Ask each group to select a global challenge or problem that might be solved by the BMI technology, and then develop a proposal and also think about the factors that need to be paid attention to when using this technology.

Explain (Slide 23)
  1. Hold a class discussion and ask students to share their proposals. During the discussion, remind students that the BMI has a great powerful impact in today’s era, and a further headway in science is impossible without it.
  2. Tell students that the BMI technology doesn’t actually read thoughts but rather detects the smallest of changes in the energy radiated by the brain when people think in a certain way. BMI has limitations as well. At present, the biggest impediment of BMI technology is the lack of sensor modality that provides safe, accurate, and robust assess to brain signals.
Elaborate (Slides 24-27)
  1. Have students respond to the following questions:  
  • What factors or concerns would you consider before implementing new technology? Answers will vary but may include safety, side effects, cost, privacy, reliability,  aesthetics, etc.
  1. Introduce some of the core brain-computer interface companies. More information can be found on the website.  
Evaluate

Students can be assessed by their contributions in class discussions, their accuracy, and ability to follow directions. 

Lesson 4: Biomedical Technology

How to Deal With a Broken Arm?

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Background 

Bone is a very complex tissue: strong, elastic, and self-repairing. Bones serve various functions in the human body, including mechanical support, protection of soft organs, blood production, etc. A bone fracture is a medical condition where the continuity of the bone is broken. Fractures are common, especially in childhood, and the average person has two during a lifetime. There are numerous types of bone fractures with various locations and severity. Some heal with a splint and rest, some require and cast, and some might even require surgery. The main categories are displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. Displaced and non-displaced fractures refer to the alignment of the fractured bone. A closed fracture is when the bone breaks but there is no puncture or open wound in the skin. An open fracture is one in which the bone breaks through the skin. When a bone is fractured, it goes through four phases of healing to repair the damage. A fracture not only breaks the bone but also severs the nerves and blood vessels. This causes blood to accumulate around the injury site, creating a hematoma (blood clot). The blood clot is gradually replaced by fibrocartilage tissue that holds the ends of the broken bone together. The soft fibrocartilage tissues are replaced by new bone matrix from osteoblasts as they secrete new minerals that harden into bone. The excess bone of the callus is gradually dissolved until the bone more closely resembles its original form.

Learning Objectives 

Students will be able to:  

  • Describe the various types of bone fractures
  • Develop and evaluate a solution to deal with a broken arm
  • Describe the factors to take into consideration when designing broken arm treatments

Standards Alignment  

NGSS: HS-ETS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions: When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World: New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology.

Basic Outline

Engage (Slides 3-9)
  1. Ask if someone in the class has broken a bone in his or her body before, and then ask them to share their treatment and experience. Tell students that a fracture is the medical term for a broken bone. Fractures are common, especially in childhood, and the average person has two during a lifetime.
  2. Ask students what the signs and symptoms of a fracture are. Answers may include pain, bruising, limping, deformity, swelling, and tenderness.
  3. Introduce different types of bone fractures. Tell students that there are many types of fractures, but the main categories are displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. Displaced and non-displaced fractures refer to the alignment of the fractured bone. A closed fracture is when the bone breaks but there is no puncture or open wound in the skin; an open fracture is one in which the bone breaks through the skin. Show pictures to illustrate the fracture subtypes.
Explore (Slides 10-12)
  1. Ask students to think about what tools and strategies they can design to deal with a broken arm. Students will work in pairs or small groups to devise a solution to some daily activities. Ask students to try to develop a strategy that allows someone to independently carry out the problems.
  2. Hold a class discussion, and ask students to explain how they would solve the problems with a tool and/or a process.
Explain: Slides 13-15
  1. Explain to students that a bone fracture typically occurs for one of three reasons: bone stress, outside force, and weakened bone. The patient’s age, activity level, bone quality, the location of the fractured bone and so on may also affect bone strength.
  2. Discuss: What factors do engineers need to consider when designing new treatments?
    Answers will vary but may include: biocompatibility, calcification, strength, weight, material degradation, chances of infection (invasiveness), and cost.
Elaborate & Extension (Slide 16)

Briefly introduce artificial bones to students. Tell students that artificial bone refers to bone-like material created in a laboratory that can be used in bone grafts, to replace human bone that was lost due to severe fractures, disease, etc. A variety of synthetic polymers, natural polymers, and bioceramics are being used to develop artificial bones.

Evaluate (Slide 17)
  1. Tell students that our bones are very important so we must take care of them. Ask students to think about the ways that can keep bones safe and healthy and to record their answers in the Lab Notes handout.
  2. Students can also be assessed by their contributions in class discussions, their accuracy, and their ability to follow directions.

Lesson 5: Prosthetics Technology

Which Prosthesis Is Best for an Amputee?

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Background  

Prosthesis, an artificial device that aims to replace the functionality or the appearance of a missing body part, plays an important role in rehabilitation. Losing a hand or an arm doesn’t mean losing independence. Prostheses can provide functionality, mobility, and confidence to amputees. There are many prosthetic options that serve different purposes. For example, a passive prosthesis is a cosmetic restoration which is an excellent choice for users who do not require precise hand control. The conventional (body-powered) prosthesis is suspended from a harness fastened around the person’s shoulder or upper torso. A wearer can manipulate the hand by moving a specific part of their body. The myoelectric prosthesis does not require a harness; instead, EMG signals generated by muscle contraction on the residual limb are collected to activate the motor in the prosthetic elbow, wrist, or hand. The myoelectric prosthesis is the closest substitute to a natural hand or arm, but it is usually expensive and has a short battery life. Another option is the electrically powered prosthesis that utilizes motors to open and close the hand, and can also flex and extend the elbow or rotate the wrist. There are various types of prosthetic devices and each of which has been designed for the satisfaction of the specific needs of the amputee. It is important to make an informed decision about what kind of prosthesis will be the right choice for them.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the different types of prostheses and how they work
  • Compare and contrast the different types of prostheses from multiple perspectives

Standards Alignment

NGSS: HS-ETS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions: When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World: New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology.

CCSS:

ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.9: Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.

ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Basic Outline

Engage (Slides 3-9)
  1. Show students a video of an amputee’s life. Explain that limb loss severely limits individuals’ ability so engineers design prosthetics that assist people in performing daily tasks. Discuss with students how prosthetics assist people who have missed limbs to perform the daily tasks and how prosthetics improve amputees’ daily life.
  2. Remind students that there are several different types of upper extremity amputations. The type of prosthesis the amputee will wear is based largely upon the length of their residual limb. Tell students that, in this class, they will mainly focus on below-elbow amputation. Also, remind students that amputees may be confused between so many types of prosthetic devices and find difficulties to figure out their type, and that people must know what their needs are and which type of prosthetics is suitable for them. It is important to make an informed decision about what kind of prosthesis will be the right choice for amputees.
Explore (Slide 10)

Ask students to work as a group to research types of prosthetics and submit an instruction for which one is more suitable for an amputee in terms of flexibility, cost, safety, aesthetics, and durability, etc. Tell students that the goal of this task is to be sure that, after reading the instruction they designed, amputees can understand all the options available in order to make a thoroughly informed choice for themselves.

Explain (Slide 11)
  1. Students will share the instruction they designed with the class. This is an open-ended task, and there is not a single absolutely correct answer.
  2. Remind students that different amputees have different needs, concerns, and personal goals. Some people care about the way a prosthesis looks, while others don’t. The best prosthesis is one that will help amputees reach their goals. There is no one device that is best for everyone. Encourage students to understand that It’s important to be able to see an issue from multiple angles.
Elaborate (Slide 12)

Have students respond to the following questions:

What effects do you think the advancement of prosthetic technologies have on how society views amputees? 

Evaluate

Students can be assessed by the instructions they designed, their contributions in class discussions, and ability to follow directions.

Lesson 6: Prosthetics and the Human Grip

What Makes Human Hands Unique?

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Background

The human hand represents a triumph of complex engineering, exquisitely evolved to perform a range of tasks. 26 percent of the bones in our bodies are in our hands. The human hand is made up of four fingers and one thumb. The thumb is called opposable thumb because it can be moved around to touch the other fingers, which is a structure that many other animals lack. Though most primates have opposable thumbs, compared to living primates, the human thumb is longer and the palm and fingers are shorter, During its evolution, the human hand gained two unique grips, first identified by a primatologist called J. R. Napier. He called them the precision grip and the power grip. When using the precision grip, the thumb and the index finger work like tweezers, allowing the hand to grip very small and delicate objects in a controlled way. In the power grip, the object is held in the palm of the hand, and the long flexor tendons pull the fingers and the thumb so that they can tightly grasp the object.

An opposable thumb is a physical adaptation for clubbing and throwing. Effective clubbing requires a secure grip: fingers and thumb forming a vice to squeeze the club handle against the palm. For efficient throwing, the hand must be able to grip the object while energy is transmitted to it. This requires a fingertip grip. The thumb must be long enough and sufficiently mobile to oppose its fingertip pad. As hands are so important, we need to look after them.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Analyze what makes the human hand so remarkable
  • Recognize that the human thumb is very important and the human hand has larger manipulation potential, in particular for small objects
  • List important factors and desirable characteristics to be considered in the design of prosthetic hand

Standards Alignment

NGSS: HS-LS4-4: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Construct an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS4.C: Adaptation: Natural selection leads to adaptation, that is, to a population dominated by organisms that are anatomically, behaviorally, and physiologically well suited to survive and reproduce in a specific environment. That is, the differential survival and reproduction of organisms in a population that have an advantageous heritable trait leads to an increase in the proportion of individuals in future generations that have the trait and to a decrease in the proportion of individuals that do not.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect: Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

CCSS: ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.9: Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.

Basic Outline

Engage (Slides 3-8)
  1. Show students some pictures of human and different animal footprints and the skeleton. The human hand is different from the hands or paws of other animals. Ask students what is special about the human hand. Students may say that the human hand is made up of four fingers and one thumb and that the human hand can grip with strength and with fine control.
  2. Ask students to hold their hands out and look at them carefully, and show students pictures of bones of the chimpanzee and human hands. Tell students that the human and primate hands may seem nearly identical, but there are several differences. Ask students to find the differences and think about what makes the human hand so remarkable.
  3. Explain to students that human thumbs are called opposable thumbs. Opposable means that it can move towards the fingers and help them to do their work. Most primates and some other animals have opposable thumbs. The human opposable thumb is longer, compared to finger length than any other primate thumb. The human hand has the largest manipulation potential, in particular for small objects.
  4. Briefly explain to students that the thumb is controlled by all 3 major hand nerves (Median, Ulnar, and Radial) and 9 individual muscles (abductor pollicis brevis, adductor pollicis, first dorsal interosseous, flexor pollicis brevis, opponens pollicis, abductor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor pollicis longus, and flexor pollicis longus).
Explore (Slides 9-11)
  1. Students will work in pairs or groups to understand the importance of the thumb for doing simple everyday activities. Students will use a stopwatch to time themselves doing the activities with thumbs and without thumbs and then compare the times. Students will:
    1. Tape the thumbs to the sides of the hands. Make sure the other four fingers can still be able to move.
    2. Try each one of the activities below. Use a stopwatch to time doing the activities with thumbs and without thumbs, and then record and compare the times.
      • Write your name with a pen
      • Brush or comb your hair
      • Tie a shoelace
      • Blow up a balloon and tie it
      • Pick a coin/apple/key up off a flat surface
      • Open a jar
      • Hold a bottle
  2. Discuss:
  • Which activities required lots of use of the thumb?
  • How did you have to change some of the activities to do them without a thumb?
  • Can you think of another activity that would be impossible (or really hard) to do without your thumbs?
Explain (Slides 12-15)
  1. Remind students that the opposable thumb is very important. It makes an astonishingly wide variety of motions. Other than pinching and grasping, the thumb can translate, rotate, and flex all at once. This coordinated set of motions provides strength and dexterity. Explain that when the fingers are flexed, they rotate towards the central axis so that the fingertips can meet the tip of the thumb. The opposable thumb enables humans to pick up and manipulate very small objects.
  2. Show students pictures to illustrate that the human hand is capable of five basic prehensile grips: palmar, cylindrical, spherical, lateral, and opposition.
Elaborate (Slide 16)

Ask students to consider how the human hand inspires the design of prosthetics and how the fingers and degree of freedoms are designed. Ask students to list important factors and desirable characteristics to be considered in the design of prosthetic hand. Answers will vary but may include: force control, finger shape, thumb position, materials (e.g., slip-proof), Human-computer interaction, strength, durability, and comfortable wearing.

Evaluate

Students can be assessed by their contributions in class discussions, their accuracy, and ability to follow directions.

Lesson 7: Biomedical Engineering Workshop

Create My High Tech Prosthesis

Materials

Group Size

2-3 students

Suggested Time

40-60 minutes

Learning Objectives 

Students will be able to:  

  • Work together as a group to design a prosthesis to address a choosing issue
  • Write creative instructions depicting the prosthesis

Standards Alignment

NGSS: HS-ETS1-2: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution: Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed.

CCSS: ELA-LITERACY.WHST.9-10.7: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Basic Outline

Mini-Lesson
  1. Engage students by connecting to previously learned concepts to the new objectives. Students have been introduced into the world of Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering through guided lessons in Body Systems, Neuroscience, Human Hand, Brain-Machine Interfaces, and an investigation into how Biomechanics integrate with human hand prosthetics. Students have been discovering high tech applications in modern contexts. This class begins with a five-minute summary of the main ideas discussed in all the previous sessions. Let students summarize the content and topics. This can be partner turn and talk and responding on whiteboards. This activity can also be a course assignment that students sign up to prepare and present the review. Some Relevant Keywords of Previous Lessons:
    • Body Systems
    • Skeletal System
    • Muscular System
    • Nervous System
    • Neurons
    • Human Hand
    • Opposable Thumb
    • Bone Fracture
    • Prosthesis
    • Prosthetic Hand
    • Electromyography (EMG)
    • Brain-Machine Interface (BMI)
    • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  2. Explain to students that they will work in pairs or as a group to create their own high tech prosthesis to address an issue of their choosing. Students are not asked to make a “real thing” in this project but they are encouraged to make a prototype or draw a diagram during the work period. Each group needs to submit a short introduction to the prosthesis they design.
  3. Tell students that they can create a future prosthesis. Encourage students to freely and boldly design innovative prostheses. The group project will be a 10-15 minute presentation to the class in the next session (using PowerPoint slides).
Group Work Time

Guiding questions:

  • What kind of prosthesis do you want to design? Upper limb or lower limb?
  • Who are your target users?
  • What are the functions of your prosthesis?
  • What does your prosthesis look like?
  • What materials do you choose to create it? Why?
  • How does your prosthesis work?
  • How the prosthesis is powered (motors, linkage type)?

Lesson 8: Biomedical Engineering Product Presentation

This is My High Tech Prosthesis

Students present their group prosthetics solution to the class using their hardware and any additional materials they have created. Presentations are designed to be student facing and demonstrate collaboration and constructive peer feedback.

Standards Alignment

CCSS:

ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.5: Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

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Presentation Rubric

Different grading options could be used.