Baylor College of Medicine’s Orthotics and Prosthetics Program participated in National STEM Day Nov. 7 by visiting Stafford STEM Magnet Middle School for a half-day of science curriculum based around the use and development of orthotics and prosthetics.
Ashley Mullen, program director of the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program, delivered a portion of the curriculum, along with faculty members Megan Glahn, Jeremy Sherman, Amandi Rhett, residents Abigail Dykema and Tiler Rose and patient model Sandy Crisp. The event was coordinated by Tiffany Fondal with the Stafford Municipal School District.
After an introduction to the profession and what it is like to be a person who uses prostheses, Baylor’s representatives worked with sixth through ninth grade students on basic prosthetic design, componentry and areas of current research, Mullen said. Afterward, the students embarked on making their own prosthesis in a design challenge that required a framework to develop a prototypical device. The student groups pitched the prototypes to their peers.
“The winning prototype is in the process of being digitally-designed and 3-D printed by the Baylor College of Medicine Orthotics and Prosthetics Program,” she said.
Students were excited to learn more about the current technology available to patients and hear about Crisp’s experiences with lower limb prostheses, as well as explore resources to improve prosthetic design. After learning the basics of prosthetic components, students started imagining what technology could be developed for the future.
“They came up with brilliant ideas related to adjustment sensors, robotic control and design features which would ensure patients were comfortable in their lower limb prostheses,” Mullen said. “As an institution, I think we can learn that even the experts can be inspired by young learners who approach a problem with a fresh mind and aren’t held back by the limitations on imagination that experience can sometimes bring.”
Orthotics and prosthetics professionals are in the midst of a national campaign to bring awareness to the career path, Mullen said. Outreach events expose people at an early age to the potential to become a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist, which is a member of the rehabilitative healthcare team who evaluates patients for orthotic and prosthetic care.
Stafford MSD officials said they teach their kids to be ready for the future.
“STEM is a mindset. We are teaching our children for tomorrow to be lifelong learners and to lead the next generation into the future. We want kids to be ready for any career, college or entrepreneurship opportunities that may come across their path,” Fondel said in a video. “Persistence, problem-solving, critical thinking and cultural awareness are all at the forefront.”
The folks from Baylor left Stafford STEM Magnet Middle School feeling encouraged by the thoughtfulness and creativity of the students.
“They were so engaged in finding new solutions; finding solutions for our patients is what inspires us in clinical care, and these students reminded us of the magic of possibilities,” Mullen said.
Story compiled by Julie Garcia