Bridging STEM fields

By Kaitlin Erdman

Over the weekend, The National Inventor’s Hall of Fame STEM Middle School hosted its sixth BEST (Bridging Engineering, Science, and Technology) Medicine Engineering Fair.

This event, orchestrated by the Biomedical Engineering Department of The University of Akron, is designed to promote interest in biomedical technologies and research by engaging middle and high school students in the STEM fields.

The BEST Medicine Fair this year brought together over 150 students from 30 different schools to participate.

The top prizes included a $500 BEST School award, two UA scholarships for 11th grade students, 10 scholarships to attend the 2016 BEST Entrepreneurship Summer Camp at UA, and a grand prize for a student and guardian to attend the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Various awards were also available through the Akron Public Schools, the Cleveland Clinic, Summa Health, the Akron section of the American Chemical Society, and many more.

By inspiring kids to branch out in medical science, UA hopes for continual growth of the Biomedical Engineering (BME) department. Freshmen enrollment in BME has increased from about 20 students in 2002 to an incoming 2016 class of about 150, according to a presentation at the event.

The program in itself has more to offer than just the fair. This year the fair featured demonstrations by the University’s NASA Robotics Team, a game involving laparoscopic surgery techniques by Akron’s chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and an educational activity from Summit County Public Health.

Teacher workshops were available to educators on subjects of Entrepreneurship Education and 3D Virtual Modeling in SketchUp. BEST also hosted Keynote speaker Ethan Holmes, founder of Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, the company which he started at the age of 15.

UA students were invited to volunteer as judges for the event. This opportunity is one that many students return to year after year, such as biochemistry student Emily Baker at UA.

Third-year biomedical engineering student Hanan Qaquish participated as a judge and found the event especially rewarding. “I loved being able to explore the inquisitive minds of the upcoming generation. It’s essential to encourage children to further their interests, especially in the scientific field, in order for our society to advance,” said Qaquish.

BEST Medicine will also host a 2016 BEST Entrepreneurship summer camp in July for high school students, as well as “Think Tank to Shark Tank: From Engineering to Entrepreneurship,” a summer program for fifth to eighth grade students. The programs hope to engage students and help them become the innovators of tomorrow.