Creative Inquiry

Project Spotlights

Education Through Participation

In the midst of normal classroom demands in primary and secondary schools, one objective often buried beneath the classwork is educating children on how to take care of themselves, whether the lesson regards their health, personal safety, or another aspect of their daily lives. Drs. John DesJardins, David Kwartowitz, Delphine Dean, Martine Laberge and Alexey Vertegel are leading Clemson bioengineering students in a collaboration with the Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, SC to develop nutrition, reproduction and biotechnology education modules for K-12 students. The Creative Inquiry team hopes to create a greater appreciation among younger students for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields through exposure to these innovative lab experiences.

"They're giving us a great deal of freedom to innovate," said DesJardins about the Science Center. "Our partnership with them is a wonderful opportunity to design and construct a bioinnovation exhibit with significant educational impact." For example, the team is currently creating an exhibit focusing on concussions to emphasize the importance of cranial protection in sports and other activities. It will consist of a hands-on demo in which students drop a weight on the head of a boxing dummy and analyze the force it experiences with the protection of different helmets. After the demo, the children will have the chance to design their own helmets and test their effectiveness on the dummy. The exhibit will also contain a lesson plan designed to meet 7th grade learning standards for South Carolina so that the children can learn beyond the demonstration.

The project has given Clemson students a chance to advance their academic and philanthropic interests. Tyler Youngman, a student working on the project, stated that the Creative Inquiry attracted him because of the opportunity it offered to work with the community in designing and building a final product that would compel children to explore the bioengineering field.

This Creative Inquiry project has given the undergraduates a creative outlet for exercising their academic skills outside of the classroom. In particular, they noted that the projects have pushed them to learn more coding and electronics skills that many bioengineering students have not employed within their major. They have taken on challenges outside of their familiar coursework to allow the project to grow.

The collaboration of this team with the Science Center has connected Clemson students to their community, giving the students the satisfaction of helping schoolchildren grow intellectually. These modules not only make the sciences more accessible to children and encourage them to expand their education, but also help Clemson students to do exactly the same.

By: Michaela Reinhart (Decipher Issue 2, Fall 2013)