Posts Tagged technology

STEM Tuesday– The Human Body — Interview with Author Sara Latta

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

 

photgraph of author Sara LattaToday we’re interviewing Sara Latta, author of Body 2.0: The Engineering Revolution in Medicine, among several other titles. The book features modern biomedical engineering challenges, some of the STEM professionals who do it, and people who have benefited from it. (Check out the Kirkus review here! If you subscribe to SLJ or Booklist, you can see additional reviews at those sites.)

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano: What’s the book about—and what was most important to you in deciding to write it?

Image of book cover of Body 2.0 by Sara LattaSara Latta: Thanks for having me on your blog! Body 2.0 explores the ways in which engineering, science, and medicine are coming together to make some remarkable advances in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, neuroscience, microbiology, and synthetic biology. I begin the book with a brief history of biomedical engineering—arguably the first known example of which was a wooden toe found on an ancient Egyptian mummy—but primarily the book focuses on cutting-edge research and the scientists at the forefront of the research. That was important to me; much of the work I write about hasn’t even reached clinical trials. I wanted to show readers that they could jump into this research at a very exciting time.

 

CCD: Did anything about your sense of what was most important change as you developed the manuscript?

SL: I don’t know if it was most important, but at some point during the interviewing process I came to the realization that telling the story of the ways in which the scientists and engineers came to this point in their research would be really interesting to my readers. Several of them said they initially wanted to be medical doctors because they wanted to help people, but they didn’t have the stomach for it. One was an athlete who was inspired by his own injury; another transferred her love of Sherlock Holmes and detective work to scientific sleuthing. So I decided I had to create a separate section telling their stories.

CCD: What in the book most fascinated or surprised you?

 SL: Well, there was a lot! I’d been fascinated by brain-computer interfaces for several years, and even tried writing a sci-fi YA thriller using that technology a while back (it’s still in a folder on my computer). It’s really astounding how quickly work in the field—and other fields in the book as well—has progressed. I think that the work in synthetic biology holds enormous promise, not just in biomedical engineering but in other fields as well. The New York Times recently published an article about using photosynthetic bacteria to make concrete that is alive and can even reproduce.

CCD: I’d like to ask you a bit about your decisions about addressing ethics in Body 2.0. If I counted correctly, you spotlight three particular areas where scientific investigation and technological advancements raise important issues. Can you say a bit about your decision-making process about how much and what to spotlight, and your lasting impressions of the ethics related to this field?

SL: I told my editor going in to this project that I wanted to highlight some important ethical issues that some of this work raises, and she said “yes, absolutely.” It’s important to think about unintended consequences. I use the example that the discovery of petroleum as a cheap and plentiful source of fuel in the 19th century revolutionized the ways we lived, worked and traveled—and now we are paying the price with a global climate crisis. So I asked the question, what does it mean to be a human being when your brain is in a symbiotic relationship with a computer? Will these new technologies be available only to those who can afford them? One of the pioneers of gene editing recounted being jolted awake by a dream in which Adolf Hitler expressed interest in her work. It made her realize that “the ability to refashion the human genome was a truly incredible power, one that could be devastating if it fell into the wrong hands.”

CCD: As an author, what did you find most challenging about completing this book?

SL: Organizing all of the interviews and research I did for the book! I relied heavily on Scrivener and Evernote to bring it all together.

CCD: Can you say something about how you hope this book might impact readers?

SL: Biomedical engineering is all about improving the quality of life for people with diseases or injuries, whether it’s helping a person with quadriplegia become more independent or growing a bladder for a kid with spina bifida. I hoped to inspire idealistic young people interested in science, medicine, or engineering, who are also interested in making a positive difference in the world.

 

Win a FREE copy of Body 2.0: The Engineering Revolution in Medicine!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, author of National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas, Running on Sunshine, andA Black Hole is NOT a Hole, among several nonfiction books for kids. As a STEM Education Consultant and co-founder of two STEM education organizations, STEM Education Insights and Blue Heron STEM Education, she develops STEM curricula, supports STEM education research, and provides professional development for teachers. Along with several STEM Tuesday contributors and other great authors, she’ll be participating in NSTA’s Science and Literacy event in Boston this spring. She’ll also be co-presenting with author Cheryl Bardoe.  Grab a sneak peek now, but better yet, stop by and say hello!

 

 

STEM Tuesday Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them – In the Classroom

Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them

For this In the Classroom feature, I’m taking a broad view of the idea of “invention,” and including similar processes, such as discovery (science) and engineering, although each is unique.I’ve also tried to give a broad range of possible activities–some of them hands-on STEM experiences, others more literary, imaginative, or whimsical, to help you ignite the type of passion and curiosity that your students will be reading about in this month’s books.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMind Your (and Your Students’) Metaphors
You can explore metaphors and our perceptions of discovery, while learning about a whole range of innovators, with Joyce Sidman’s Eureka! Poems about Inventors (illustrated by K. Bennett Chavez).

Especially with older students, you can begin by conducting the survey described and discussed in Kristen C. Elmore and Myra Luna-Lucera’s work, article, “Light Bulbs or Seeds? How Metaphors for Ideas Influence Judgments About Genius,” which examines how specific metaphors about discovery influence our perceptions of the not just of the process, but, perhaps surprisingly, of the discoverers and value of their achievements. After students respond to the survey (resources are provided in the article), let them in on the whole study and discuss their own responses in light of the researchers’ findings.

Then crack open Eureka! While enjoying the poems and thinking about the inventors, also of looking for the ways in which design, discovery, and invention are portrayed. In any poem, does Sidman seem to see the inventor’s experience as  a “light bulb moment” (as the book’s title suggests), or as a process of  “nurturing seeds?” Perhaps something else? Overall, does Sidman’s view of invention seem to favor one metaphor or the other? (Keep in mind that you can continue this discussion with respect to other books from this month’s list.)

Of course, after students read the stories in Eureka! it makes perfect sense for them to write their own poems about:

  • Their own experiences of discovery or engineering insight
  • Other innovators featured in this month’s books–Elon Musk or Isaac Newton, for example.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDream Big—Really Big (and Then Maybe Engineer Something)

Readers of Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk & the Quest for a Fantastic Future will surely notice something that really makes Elon Musk stand out: his mission-driven ambition.

This guy dreams big.

Many people– including engineers and inventors–hope to make the world a better place; Musk wants to save humanity. This kind of high-impact calling can be a great motivator for future engineers and other innovators. Capitalize on the excitement of the Musk’s vision with one or more of these ideas:

Encourage Daydreaming!

  • Invite your students to take a cue from Musk and envision something that would be really important to the well-being of people around the world. Begin a discussion with a grand question: If you could invent anything to make the world a much better place for everyone, what would you invent?

 

  • Follow through with a brainstorming session around this question, encouraging students to think about ideas that might not seem realistic or possible right now. (If the class has already read the book, you can remind students that Musk’s ideas might not have seemed feasible at first, and, in fact, that lots of people have scoffed at his ideas.)

 

  • Keep a running dream-list posted in the classroom and return to it from time to time. Invite students to keep “Dream Books,” where they focus on one or two ideas (or more) and write and sketch about how the dream might become a reality through some technology.

 

  • You can expand on this idea by holding your own school version of the National Academy of Engineering’s “E4U” contest—minus the $25,000 grand prize– which (apparently) was last held in 2016. While the national contest is not open now, students can follow the contest rules to create 1-2 minute videos that aim to highlight a mega-engineering project related to one of their big dreams and, in the words of the contest guidelines, “expand the way people think about engineering and how it is involved in solving large-scale global challenges.” Check out winning entries, guidelines that you can use or adapt, and an explanatory (if outdated) video at the E4U contest site. Whether you run this as a contest or a showcase, this is a creative way to help students connect to Musk’s work and the importance of STEM in our world

Join Musk on His Mission (Sort Of)

For a more concrete experience, lead your students through engineering projects with connections to SpaceX rockets and Tesla’s electric cars, such as those featured in these resources from Design Squad Global:

Musk is all about the future. But there’s plenty of excitement in the past. Just check out the likes of Isaac Newton, whose experiences can add a bit of magic to how we think of early science and engineering.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgExplore a Little Magic with Isaac Newton

From the outset of Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d, author Mary Losure explains to readers that in Isaac Newton’s time, some of what we now understand through science, such as chemical reactions and optical effects,  seemed a lot like magic.

They still do.  Have fun with this idea and explore the magical effects of our everyday world!

 

  • Adapt additional resources to create inquiry-based, surprising, and delightfully magical lessons. (Notes: I named these activities to spice things up; you won’t see these activity names in the resources. Also, see the safety reminder, below.)

Spirit Writing?

Cast a Colorful Spell (magic trick begins at about the 7-minute mark)

Cast a Colorful Spell 2

Refraction Action: Disappearing Coin

Liquid Refraction Action 2: Liquid Invisibility Cloak!

Vanishing Glass (See Item 1 in the linked resource.)

 

  •  Finally, to continue the science-is-magical theme, and for a bit more fun and a creative literacy extension, you might have students write and perform scripts for a magic show, each student team building a story or act that uses one of the chemical reactions to create the “magic.”

As I find every month when I contribute to STEMTuesday, the books on the list inspire many more lesson ideas than space will allow. What inspires you? Leave a comment sharing new ideas or comments on what you see here!


*Safety Reminder: The magic/science activities are generally safe, but in the classroom, you should always be sure to follow the guidelines for safety and for modeling safe use of all chemicals. Check with your local science curriculum coordinator or the National Science Teachers Association Minimum Safety Practices and Regulations for Demonstrations, Experiments, and Workshops.


portrait of author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofanoSTEM Tuesday–In the Classroom contributor, author, and STEM education consultant Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano writes about science and technology/engineering for kids.  Running on Sunshine: How Does Solar Energy Work? –a book for early readers released this month–celebrates the innovative spirit and challenges behind engineering solar technologies, and received a starred review from Kirkus.

STEM Tuesday Field Work — In the Classroom

Exploring “In the Field”

When you think of scientists working in the field, what do you imagine? I imagine them venturing to remote, possibly dangerous sites. Then again, some field work is closer to home, less rugged. And, as this month’s books reveal, modern field work can sometime mean anxiously awaiting data and video feeds while a specially equipped drone or other remote sensing device ventures far from home. No matter what the exact circumstances may be, this month’s titles transport readers to many places and offer exciting tales of passionate scientists eager to answer their questions. Let’s begin diving into this theme with a look at underwater archaeology.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSubmerge Yourself in a Science Mystery

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine is packed with possible science learning connections. Especially relevant to this month’s theme is the archaeological practice of studying objects in situ, carefully documenting and noting the physical relationships among the artifacts at a site. Readers witness  this practice as author Sally M. Walker takes them to the murky, underwater field where the 150-year-lost historic H.L. Hunley was discovered. Here scientists meticulously record the locations and orientations of the objects on the site before removing anything from the site. Later, scientists carefully record the sub’s interior objects’ spatial relationships before extracting them for study. The importance of preserving these details becomes clear when the data later prove important in answering scientists’ questions.

You can enhance students’ appreciation of the value of this information with a simple lesson involving different arrangements of a set of objects undergoing different events.

For example, imagine a site that includes a computer mouse, piece of paper, computer, glass, chair, desk. Ask students to sketch or create 3D scenes of these artifacts’ positions and orientations based on each of the following scenarios:

Scenario A: A left-handed person seated in front of a computer spilled a glass of water on a computer keyboard. Then the person jumped away from the desk, knocking over the chair.

Scenario B: A right-handed person seated in front of a computer fainted and fell out of the chair, knocking over a glass of water.

Scenario C: A left-handed person carrying a glass of water walked toward the desk, approaching it from the right, when a dog ran through the room from left to right, first toppling the chair, then bumping the person, which made the glass of water fall out of his/her hands.

Discuss how (and why) the layout of the artifacts varies in each of the representations, providing unique clues to each event. If you are feeling more adventurous, you might try either of these variations:

  • Before the activity, prepare secret assignment cards. On each card, print only one scenario but make sure A, B, and C are all represented in the class pile of cards. Randomly distribute the cards to student pairs, who must then sketch or use model artifacts to show the event. Next, each team can examine another team’s scene, making careful observations and beginning to make inferences about what happened to result in the objects’ arrangements.  After revealing the three scenarios, challenge students to infer which of the scenarios each student representation seems to match (and why). Discuss the observations and inferences that are related to the spatial relationships among the artifacts, and how they provide clues to a prior event.

 

  • For a more open-ended challenge, ask student pairs interpret other sketches as much as possible, without telling them what the three scenarios are. Support student thinking with questions such as:
    • What’s similar/different between the scene you are looking at and the one you just created? Do you think the scenario implied here is the same or different from the scenario that informed the scene you created? Why?
    • If different, what details about the event can you infer from the scene? What evidence supports your ideas? What is unexplained?

Looking at the entire set of scenes in the classroom, students might infer how many different scenarios are represented, using evidence to make arguments that support their claims. You might decline to tell students the answer, as archaeologists can never go back to the original witnesses and check their ideas.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStudy Primates in the Field

As a biography of a groundbreaking field scientist, Anita Silvey’s Untamed, the Wild Life of Jane Goodall covers a lot of territory, including an exciting glimpse into this pioneer’s experiences as a field scientist.

Help students envision a primate scientist’s field work by comparing their own daily routines to their understandings (based on the text) of Jane’s early work in the field. Students might log where they eat, what they have to do to get their food and water, and where and when they sleep. They can break the day down into an hour-by-hour log of activities. For comparison, they can read about Jane’s early field activities on pages 28-33. Pages 71 and 73-77 address some ways that chimpanzee scientists’ field work has changed. They won’t be able to make exact correlations between their days and details about the scientists’ experiences, but they’ll get a flavor of the differences. Ask students to reflect on what aspects of being a field-based primatologist might be most exciting and challenging.

An engaging way to convey the lure of primatologists’ field work is watching videos of primates in their habitats. Show students one or more of these clips (with or without the narration) and discuss their observations (what they see and hear) and inferences (what sense they or the narrator/scientists make of what is observed). You might use some of the ideas in December’s STEM Tuesday In the Classroom installment, which focused on zoology.

Individual animals’ “personalities” and their relationships with other group members are important.  Field scientists often learn to identify individuals by sight. Your students might enjoy trying to learn the names and details about the chimps pictured on pages 84-87, perhaps by creating flash cards with copies of their pictures on the front.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgJourney into Meteorology and the Eye of the Storm

Of course, field studies extend beyond the bounds of biology, as you will see in Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code, by Amy Cherrix. While you might appreciate the extensive teacher’s guide  that offers many ideas for discussions and classroom activities, you might want to focus specifically on field work. If so, you might show NASA videos featuring drone missions to hurricanes, such as NASA Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HSE) – Studying Storms with the Global Hawk UAV. You can also sign up to connect your classroom to NASA’s airborne missions. If you do, you will gain access to the same video that NASA scientists see when they run the drone flights, and receive additional support.

As you might imagine, classic field-based weather observations make a great connection to this book. For example:

  • Your class might commit to participating in a citizen scientist group of weather watchers, (which may require modest investments in standard equipment), such as the CoCoRaHS Network.
  • For independent observing, students might build and use their own weather stations. Build Your Own Weather Station, published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offers instructions.
  • If you prefer, challenge students to engineer their own instruments (based on designs that they research), as described in a free Integrated STEM Lesson Plan by R. Bruno.

 

The books on this month’s list offer many opportunities to jump into field work. How might you involve your students in actual or simulated field studies? What suggestions do you have to expand upon the ideas in this post? Please share your comments and questions!


portrait of author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofanoSTEM author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano is also a STEM education consultant who supports teachers, librarians, schools, and organizations by providing curriculum development and professional development services. Find out about her books at http://carolyndecristofano.com and her consulting at http://bhstemed.us.