Once middle and high school students learn what biomedical engineering involves, many of them become hooked. Biomedical engineering combines the biology knowledge these students encounter in their STEM curriculum with the unique twist of engineering’s focus on inventing new technology. The problem is that most middle and high schools do not expose students to this relatively new field of engineering research, especially in school districts like Compton Unified.
On October 29, the USC Viterbi STEM Spotlight on the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) greeted 262 students from Compton middle schools (Enterprise, Roosevelt, and Willowbrook Middle Schools) as well as 70 students from McBride High School in Long Beach. BME Chair and Professor Ellis Meng specifically invited schools serving underrepresented minority students to the STEM Spotlight, recognizing the importance of sharing the broader impacts of the BME faculty’s research with the larger community in order to create a more diverse STEM workforce. She also targeted middle school students, knowing that education research shows this to be the most vulnerable time for girls and minority students to turn away from STEM.
Many BME faculty members opened their labs or shared their research with the student visitors between 9 a.m. – 1:30, including Professors Meng, Eun Ji Chung, Stacey Finley, Jean-Michel Maarek, Megan McCain, and Bartlett Mel.
Additionally, the Ph.D. students in BME’s Graduate Students in BME (GSBME) organization and undergraduates in the Associated Students of BME (ASBME) prepared for months to set up ten interactive stations for hands-on encounters with the visiting students. Shown here (R) with Professor Jill McNitt-Gray, Gabilan Distinguished Professorship in Science and Engineering and Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, are her Ph.D. students, who created the “Biomechanics of a Soccer Kick” station. Other stations included Gene Yu’s Detecting Concussion and Brain Injury, Joycelyn Yip’s 3D Creation Station, Ali Marjaninejad's Brain-Machine Interface, and much more.
Dr. McNitt-Gray (R) and students from the Biomechanics Research Laboratory. PC: Xinyi Zhang
High school teacher Davion White brought his students from McBride High School in Long Beach, and reported that his students were still talking enthusiastically about their visit on Monday morning. As himself a graduate of Enterprise Middle School in Compton, where he won science fairs, Mr. White reiterated the value of exposing students at an early age to the goals they can set for college and career pathways in STEM. Two of Mr. White’s former students are currently enrolled in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and they were also on hand to encourage the McBride students to pursue their STEM studies.
The STEM Spotlight Website on BME offers background information on the field of biomedical engineering that was provided to all the students as well as links to all the faculty research Websites and descriptions of all the interactive stations set up by students. This information remains active on the site so that anyone interested in learning more about this field can do so.