Research Matters

Research Matters

Bioengineering and Forth-Graders

A new project could boost passion for science and engineering among fourth-graders across the state, especially girls. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Aired October 19, 2008

2 minutes (3.7 MB) | Download mp3


KU associate professor of mechanical engineering Lisa Friis has first-hand experience with the misgivings many fourth grade girls have when learning principles of science and engineering.

Lisa Friis: About two years ago, when she was in fourth grade, she came home and told me she was not good in math and science. That shocked me because she's a straight-A student and very smart, and I think she has a good role model with a mom who is an engineer. When she came home and said that we started looking into why might she be thinking this way, and it turns out it is not at all uncommon.

Fourth-grade girls tend to be focused on human needs. So Friis believes a targeted curriculum in bioengineering - the study of the human body as a machine - will attract more female students to science and engineering. With a half-million dollars from the National Science Foundation, Friis is leading an effort to put bioengineering toolkits into classrooms across Kansas.

Lisa Friis: Toolkits will be hands-on activities for the students, reading materials at their level that explain basic curricular concepts for the fourth-grade. And the toolkits will give them activities to study what's going on with the human body. They'll explain forces and moments and lever arms in terms of body mechanics - things that all the students can relate to directly."

KU bioengineering faculty and graduate students will join with Kansas grade school teachers at the Greenbush Southeast Kansas Education Service Center to create these toolkits. Results will be measured over time.

Lisa Friis: Greenbush will be surveying teachers, surveying classes of these students before and after presentation to see what retention has been like. In terms of the long-range, long-goal outcome, we'll be able to tell you in another ten or 15 year when we have more students coming though who are interested in the biosciences and are engaged early in the field.

For more on fourth-graders and bioengineering, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

Tell Me More

KU researchers want to spark interest in bioengineering among fourth-graders

A new project spearheaded by researchers at the University of Kansas is designed to boost passion for science and engineering among fourth-graders across Kansas, with an emphasis on girls and minority students.

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