Student Innovations Tackle Real World Medical Problems

The Huntley High School Medical Academy aims to prepare students for real-world study and careers in the medical field. In the Academy’s Project Lead the Way Biomedical Innovations course, students get the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to solve real-world medical issues.

“Students get to tackle open-ended, real-world issues that don’t necessarily have in-the-box answers,” said teacher Jeff Robinson.

The class evolves throughout the semester, integrating project-based work and high-level, hands-on lab experiments, he said. Among other projects, students designed model emergency rooms that integrate new innovations to better treat medical problems and diagnosed medical mysteries based on case files, and developed their own ideas to solve a real-world medical issue.

Students’ innovative ideas spanned from physical tools to medical devices to mobile apps. Among those that were brought to development stages were an app that made patient medical information easier to access for doctors, a cuff that could measure patients’ vitals while waiting in an emergency room, and a state-of-the-art crib that included monitoring tools to prevent the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Senior Mia Koss was inspired to create a new kind of cast after observing her sister’s recovery from a broken ankle.

Koss collaborated with students and staff from the school’s Engineering Academy to create a prototype of the cast using a 3-D printer. The cast features a webbed design to make it lightweight and to cut down on irritation. In addition, it integrates neuromuscular stimulation pads, which would be set up by a physician to exercise muscles that otherwise would be at risk for atrophy due to long-term immobilization.

“This class is absolutely helping me prepare for life later-on,” said Koss, who plans to study nursing in college. “It gets you in early so you see what you’re signing up for.”

Biomedical Innovations serves as the capstone course of the four-class Project Lead the Way sequence in the Medical Academy. In addition, the Academy offers more than a dozen electives, spanning from medical English and medical Spanish to first responder training, forensics, medical foods, and sports medicine.

In addition, starting in the fall 30 seniors will be the first to take part in the Academy’s Youth Residency Program in partnership with Centegra Health System. In the residency, students will receive intensive job shadowing and mentorship from Centegra health professionals across a variety of medical fields.

Modeled on medical school residencies, the partnership is the only of its kind in the country.

“There are so many outlets for these students to investigate things and enrich scientific learning,” Robinson said. “All these opportunities to get clinical lab experience, to get these deeper levels of thinking in these specialized classes that you don’t usually get to see until you’re an upperclassmen in an undergraduate lab, it’s pretty amazing.”