The pictures on the title page are from various Activities written for the Principles of the Biomedical Sciences course. The image on the far left with the two beakers and balloon is from Unit 2, where the students must use supplied materials to build and test the efficiency of a pump. The next image is of a block diagram in the LabVIEW program. Students use LabVIEW programs and Vernier probes to measure blood pressure, heart rate, EKG, and temperature. The third image is the DNA model produced by 3D Molecular Designs that students build in Unit 4. The image on the far right is a model of the normal beta-globin protein. Beta-globin is one of the sub-units of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the blood. Sickle cell disease is caused by deformed beta-globin.
The seven listed states provided funding to Project Lead The Way, Inc. either through the State Department of Education or the State Department of Workforce Development.
The biomedical sciences comprise one of the largest industries in the United States, employing more than 15 million people working in a wide range of occupations. Over 10% of the national employment is in the healthcare industry. By the year 2014, over 3.6 million new healthcare jobs are expected to be created. Eight of the twenty occupations projected to have the greatest job growth over the next ten years are in healthcare. (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006)
Examples of some of the fields students in the Biomedical Sciences Program may want to pursue. This list is far from all inclusive. One common theme about all the careers is the need for two or more years of post-secondary education and training. In some cases, many more than two years of post-secondary education is required. Most people commonly think of healthcare in terms of hospitals, doctors, nurses, and dentists, but the biomedical sciences are much more varied and extensive. In addition to people who provide direct care and diagnostic services, the field includes those who do biomedical engineering, research disease and human physiology, study nutritional science, are involved in a variety of supporting professions such as, facilities design and management, environmental health and safety, health information management and analysis, industrial hygiene, and those who determine public policy affecting health care delivery, finance, regulation, and community services. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is the fastest growing manufacturing industry in the U.S. and requires workers to research, develop, manufacture, and supply medicines and other biomedical therapies derived from biotechnology. The United States is the world’s leading developer and producer of modern medicines, and pharmaceuticals are an important American export.
The Biomedical Sciences Program is a sequence of four courses. Each course builds on the skills and knowledge students gained in the proceeding courses. This is unlike the Engineering Program that uses a Foundation and Specialization format and does not require students to take the foundation courses in any particular sequence. Although the program is designed to be a sequence with students taking one course each year of high school, that does not mean that students can not take two course simultaneously in their later years in high school. For example a student could begin the program as junior and take both the Principles of the Biomedical Sciences and the Human Body Systems courses; then as a senior take both the Medical Interventions and the Science Research courses.
The curriculum is standards-based and each lesson indicates which Science, Mathematics, Health Care Cluster, English Language Arts, and Technological Literacy National Standards are addressed through the student work. Once the National Standards for Engineering and Engineering Technology are finalized, those Standards will also be incorporated into the curriculum.
The attributes of this curriculum will be the same as for the engineering curriculum. The student work will be rigorous in order to prepare students for college or other post-secondary training. The work will also be relevant to the biomedical sciences and the various careers within the field. Students will be doing the same types of activities and work as someone with a career in biomedical science might be doing. The curriculum follows the Project Lead The Way format for Activities, Projects, and Problems. Each course within the program integrates the primary fields of science instead of treating each field in isolation, in addition to integrating language arts, history, and mathematics. The integration of multiple disciplines better emulates the real world of job expectations, e.g. scientists and physicians must be able to communicate effectively in writing and to use mathematics to analyze results of experiments or determine proper dosages.
This chart shows Bloom’s Hierarchy on the right, with higher order thinking and learning levels at the top, and Daggett’s Application Model across the bottom. Project Lead The Way curriculum is in sector D; it is both rigorous and taught within context. Advanced Placement courses would be in sector C; the curriculum is rigorous but it is most often taught without context and can become more memorization rather than true learning that can be applied to real world situations. Notice that at the high end of the application model is the ability to apply learning to predictable and unpredictable situations. This is the difference between projects and problems in Project Lead The Way Curricula. Projects have a predictable outcome—each student may do something different, yet all the products will be generally similar because the parameters for the product were defined in the curriculum. Problems have unpredictable outcomes—students may make products completely unlike each other. Problems within the curriculum are very open-ended, just they are in real work situations. By working to solve the problems, students learn and practice problem-solving techniques or strategies.
The first course, Principles of the Biomedical Sciences, lays the foundation for the subsequent courses. It is also the engagement course designed to introduce students to the broad field of biomedical science. There are no pre-requisite courses for this first course, and students do not need to have had a high school biology course. The biology concepts necessary for success in the course are embedded within the curriculum. Students can take this course in 9th grade, or depending on how the school implements the program they may take it in the later grades. Even 12th graders can take the course if they decide late in high school that they are interested in the biomedical sciences. Students taking any of the other courses in the Project Lead The Way Biomedical Sciences Program, must take this course prior to, or concurrent to, their enrollment in those courses. In this course students investigate the major biological concepts by studying various disease conditions. For example, students learn about the importance of homeostasis, feedback mechanisms, and metabolism by investigating diabetes; they learn about genetics and DNA by investigating sickle-cell disease. In this course students use Vernier probes and the LabVIEW software to take various heart measurements, including EKG, blood pressure, and heart rate. They perform DNA gel electrophoresis, Gram stain bacteria, and prepare and present a grant proposal.
The second course, Human Body Systems, builds on the concepts students learned in the first course and goes much more in-depth into the mechanisms that keep the body, a living machine, functioning. Students will learn how to use LabVIEW to write programs that allow them to collect data from the experiments they design. The focus will be on how the human body is a system that requires the coordinated actions of multiple interrelated systems, each responsible for various actions. For example, the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and muscular systems are all coordinated to provide energy to the body from food. If a breakdown occurs in any of the systems, then the cells in the body will not have sufficient energy to survive.
The third course, Medical Interventions, will allow students to investigate the wide variety of preventive and treatment actions available to prolong and improve the quality of life. Possible topics include stem cell research, cochlear implants, insulin pumps, joint and organ replacements, heart pacers, and internal defibrillators. Students will be expected to use LabVIEW to create programs that automate tasks or take specific body measurements and then trigger an intervention. For example, students may program a prosthetic arm made from legos or fishertechnics components that can pick up objects and place them in a container, or design a program that could measure blood glucose levels and supply insulin as needed.
The fourth course, Science Research, is the capstone course for the program. In this course students will work with a mentor from a university, college, hospital, or physician’s office to conduct biomedical research. At the conclusion of the course, each student will present his or her work to a panel of professionals who may be on the school’s partnership team or who may be from area universities, businesses, or physician offices. In schools that have both the Project Lead The Way Engineering and Biomedical Sciences programs, it may be possible to combine this course with the Engineering Design and Development capstone course so that one teacher is supervising both groups of students. A bonus with that plan is that potentially students from the Biomedical Sciences Program could work with students from the Engineering Program to develop and test a product. Providing the opportunity for student engineers to work with student scientists would provide valuable real-world team problem solving experience.
The attributes of the graduates of the Biomedical Sciences Program are listed. These are the same attributes as graduates of the Engineering program and emphasize skills most often cited by employers as the most needed or desired attributes of new employees.
These are the key biological concepts investigated by students in the first course. Each of these concepts is represented in the National Science Standards. Cellular basis of life: all living things are made of individual cells that work together to provide the materials and processes necessary to sustain life. All living things begin as a single cell, i.e. the fertilized egg cell that becomes a human, and death also occurs at the cellular level, i.e. a heart attack is the death of heart muscle cells. Homeostasis is the ability of living things to maintain a consistent environment, i.e. humans maintain an internal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Metabolism is the conversion of one form of energy into another; i.e. humans convert the chemical energy in molecules of food into a form of energy, called ATP, that can be used by cells to maintain life processes. Inheritance of traits is the passing of genetic information from one generation to the next. The molecule responsible is called Deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. Defense against disease is the ability to fight off infections.
The Principles of the Biomedical Sciences course integrates several engineering concepts with the science concepts. The engineering design process is used by students to develop various models and students examine the parallels between this process and the process for designing scientific experiments. Feedback loops are important regulatory mechanisms for all systems, whether living or not. Blood flow through veins and air flow through the alveoli of the lungs both follow the principles of fluid dynamics. If the structure of a protein or other body component is changed, then it may perform its function more or less efficiently. For example, if the structure of the hemoglobin protein is changed, it may not be able to carry oxygen as efficiently which could lead to anemia. This is what happens with sickle cell disease, the hemoglobin is changed due to a genetic change in the DNA. The altered hemoglobin does not bind to oxygen as efficiently leading to sickle cell anemia, and it causes the red blood cells to become misshapen. The cells, tissues, and organs of humans are each systems which work interdependently to support life.
The Biomedical Sciences Curriculum uses the same framework and follows the same Activities, Projects, and Problem model to enhance student learning as the Engineering curriculum.
Examples of student work completed in the second unit of the Principles of the Biomedical Sciences course are listed. The students first learn about pumps and build a simple pump using two flasks, rubber tubing, and a balloon. By applying weights and measuring the time it takes to move a specified volume of water the students can explore factors that affect the efficiency of a pump, including the diameter of the tubing. In this unit students are introduced to the LabVIEW software that will be used throughout the Biomedical Sciences courses. The students use the pre-designed programs to measure EKG, heart rate, and blood pressure. They then look at the “back side” of the program to see how the commands for the program were assembled. By having them learn about the actual programming, the students have to think about the experiment in terms of what is being measured, how often measurements need to be taken, how the data is to be presented, and whether mathematical formulas have to be applied to the data (i.e. calculating a mean, setting a threshold, calculating a difference from a baseline, etc.).
This is a picture of the front panel of the LabVIEW program for determining blood pressure. This is a simple user interface that allows students to easily collect data by simply pressing the “Collect” button. Values are then plotted on the graphs. After the data collection is stopped the blood pressure readings are displayed in the appropriate colored boxes on the left.
This is the block diagram showing the programming behind the blood pressure program shown on the previous slide. The students complete a directed analysis of the diagram to learn the organization and logic behind the program. By thinking through the program, the students will have a better idea of what is actually being measured and why. Therefore instead of mindlessly pressing a “start” button and watching a graph appear, the student are actively analyzing the steps and processes. In the subsequent courses the students will independently design experiments and program the LabVIEW software to collect and analyze the data.
Examples of student work from the fourth unit in the Principles of the Biomedical Sciences course are listed. Student use the human cell line called HeLa, the first human cell line which has been cultured continuously since the 1950’s, to prepare chromosome spreads. A chromosome spread is made by breaking apart the cells and allowing the chromosomes to literally fall or spread out from the cell. The chromosomes are stained and viewed under a microscope. Students also do a simple extraction of DNA from various fruit cells, including raspberries and bananas. The students use an interactive simulation of human chromosomes to prepare karyotypes of clinical cases. A karyotype is an organized arrangement of the 46 human chromosomes and it allows for the diagnosis of medical conditions caused by an abnormal number of chromosomes, i.e. Down’s syndrome is caused by the additional copy of chromosome #21 (3 copies instead of 2). To learn about modern genetics and genetic analysis the students build 3-D models of both DNA and protein, and use computer simulation software to explore how these molecules change. They analyze a human genetic sequence and see the direct relationship between the sequence of nucleotides in a gene (DNA) and the structure of the protein encoded by the gene. The final project in the unit is for the students to use computer simulation software to design a protein that has specific characteristics and can perform a specified function. In this course the students also perform gel electrophoresis, analyze DNA fragments, and learn about the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) in order to experience and practice how modern genetic techniques are used to diagnose disease.
Screen shot of the Internet-based interactive karyotyping activity. Students need to examine the images of the human chromosomes and correctly align them according to size and shape in order to diagnose the genetic condition of 3 different patients. The patients represented each have a genetic disease or defect that the students then explore.
Students work in teams and read maps of the protein structure to create a 3-D model of the beta-globin protein. Beta-globin is one of the components in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Sickle cell disease is caused by a change in a single amino acid (out of over 200) in beta-globin. Students use 2-D maps and 3-D interactive computer images to create their models.
The names of the individuals on the curriculum development team are listed. They represent high school and college instructors and industry representatives from six states.
Portions of the curriculum were given to three professionals for evaluation.
The three reviewers of the curriculum are listed.
Each reviewer was provided a check sheet with 93 separate components to evaluate. The components were rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the best score. The components included an evaluation of the concepts, alignment with the National Standards, and assessment. The reviewers were asked to pay particular attention to the rigor and relevance of the student work and expectations.
The average score of all 93 components from all 3 reviewers was 3.5, the highest possible score was a 4 and the lowest was a 1.
Quote from James Potter, Research Associate at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Jim has worked at Johns Hopkins for over 20 years and is the Director of Information Services for Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Quote from Meredith Durmowicz the Chairperson of the Biology Department at Villa Julie College near Baltimore, Maryland.
The small scale field test is occurring in 42 schools located in the seven states that provided funding for the development of the Biomedical Sciences Program. Sixty teachers completed the two-week intensive summer training held at IUPUI in Indiana and Villa Julie College in Maryland. Because the Biomedical Sciences Program is a sequence of courses, next year the same 42 schools will participate in the field test of the Human Body Systems course currently in development. In 2009 these schools will field test the Medical Interventions course.
The field test of the first course will continue during the 2008-2009 school year. Additional schools from the original states will be included in the field test of the first course. The original 42 schools will field test both the Principles of the Biomedical Sciences and the Human Body Systems courses. During that school year an end-of-course exam will be piloted and the purchase manual for the first course will be disseminated for national bids. That way when the Program is available for national implementation in 2009 the first course will have two years of classroom evaluation, an end-of-course assessment, and a purchase manual with National bids.
Biomedical Sciences Program Overview
Biomedical Sciences Program
States Funding Development of
Biomedical Sciences Program:
PLTW Biomedical Sciences Program
Address impending critical shortage
of qualified science and health
Prepare students for rigorous post-
secondary education at two and
four-year colleges or universities.
--- some examples ---
Sequence of Courses
Principles of the Biomedical
Human Body Systems
National Science Education Standards
Principles and Standards of School
National Health Care Cluster Foundation
Standards for English Language Arts
Standards for Technological Literacy
National Content Standards for Engineering
and Engineering Technology*
* Once finalized
Rigorous and Relevant
Aligned with National Standards
Project and Problem-based
Integrate biology, chemistry, and
Integrate science, mathematics,
English language arts, and social
1 2 3 4 5
Knowledge Apply in
Adapted from W. Daggett
Course #1: Principles of the
Student work involves the study of human
medicine, research processes and an
introduction to bio-informatics.
Students investigate the human body
systems and various health conditions
including: heart disease, diabetes, sickle-
cell disease, hypercholesterolemia, and
Human Body Systems
Engage students in the study of
basic human physiology, especially
in relationship to human health.
Students will use LabVIEW®
software to design and build
systems to monitor body functions.
Student projects will investigate
various medical interventions that
extend and improve quality of life
including: gene therapy,
pharmacology, surgery, prosthetics,
rehabilitation, and supportive care.
Students will identify a science
research topic, work with a mentor
from the scientific or medical
community to conduct research,
write a scientific paper, and defend
their research conclusions to a
panel of outside reviewers.
Attributes of Graduates
Think creatively and critically.
Able to problem-solve.
Have professional conduct.
Able to work in teams.
Understand how scientific research
is conducted, applied, and funded.
Key Biological Concepts:
Cellular basis of life
Inheritance of traits
Defense against disease
Key Engineering Concepts:
Process of design
Relationship of structure to
Examples of Student Work
Activities: build skills and
Projects: build team work and allow
students to practice the skills and
knowledge with a real-world task
Problems: build problem-solving
skills, team work, encourage
creativity, and allow students to
apply skills and knowledge
Examples of Student Activities from
Unit 2: Heart Attack
Build a simple pump
Measure factors that affect pump
Dissect a sheep heart
Use LabVIEW software and Vernier
probes to measure EKG, heart
rate, and blood pressure
Examples of Student Activities from
Unit 4: Sickle Cell Disease
Make a chromosome spread
Isolate DNA from plant cells
Build models of DNA and proteins
Read a genetic map
Use computer simulation software
to build a designer protein
Curriculum Development Team
Alan Dinner, Ph.D.
Susan Gorman, Ph.D.
Carolyn Malstrom, Ph.D.
Tonya Mathews, Ph.D.
Tony Valentino, Ph.D.
Sarah Davis: Middle school science
teacher and consultant for Education
James Potter: Research Associate in
Hepatology at Johns Hopkins
Meredith Durmowicz, Ph.D.:
Chairperson, Department of Biology,
Villa Julie College
Curriculum Review Scoring Tool
Scored 93 separate characteristics from
1 (not present) to 4 (no revision necessary)
Rigor and relevance
Alignment of Key Concepts, Essential
Questions, National Standards, Performance
Objectives, and actual student work
Vertical alignment to post-secondary educational
The average total score of the
ratings from the reviewers was 3.5.
Jim Potter: “The curriculum is very
well designed and certainly
provides rigor for a 9th grade
curriculum. I was extremely
impressed with the scope of the
document. It is unusual for a 9th
grade science curriculum.”
Meredith Durmowicz: “The activities
offer a wide range of types of
learning styles and activities,
including visual (reading), tactile,
oral, and graphically oriented
activities. There are many
opportunities for students to draw
connections and demonstrate
understanding in many different
Field Test 2007-2008
In 42 schools selected by the State
Departments of Education or
Workforce Development in the
seven funding states.
Same schools will field test each
new course as it is released.
Expansion of Program
2008—Expand field test implementation of
first course into additional schools within
the original states
2009—First course fully implemented
Purchase manual—national bid process