The University of Tennessee is the preeminent research-based, land grant university in the state. In keeping with their mission, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (iBME) strongly believes in community engagement. This outreach includes education, engagement, and service and aspires to enrich the regional and state communities through a number of partnerships.
The outreach goals of iBME include providing a regional resource to improve the general public’s understanding of biomedical engineering and reaching out to K-12 educators and students to develop interest and knowledge in biomedical engineering. The Institute’s faculty continually shows their support for community outreach and education year after year. Current activities range from single presentations to week long programs.
Through student education, iBME strives to provide an understanding of the applications of biomedical engineering through science, technology, engineering, and math. Beginning with early childhood education, science presentations have been given at a local recreation center giving inner city kids a chance to dissect mice and explore anatomy. Presentations have also been given at nearby junior high schools to demonstrate active scientific research being conducted at the University. In addition, faculty has provided learning sessions to Science Olympiad students on the junior high level in preparation for their participation in the National Science Olympiad Tournament.
Outreach activities on the high school level are numerous. In addition to giving technical presentations to groups of students, many faculty members continually open their research labs through internships and research-based assignments creating a learning environment beyond the conventional classroom. These internships provide students with real research experience in the biomedical sciences. While being mentored from faculty, students are trained in laboratory safety, literature searches, proposal preparation, and technical writing. Some of the programs hosting student participants include the Farragut High School Science Academy, Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars Program (PCRSP), Engineering VOLunteers for Tenth Graders (eVOL10), and High School Introduction to Engineering Systems (HITES).
In a more general setting, faculty members have provided facility tours to show laboratory equipment and demonstrate proper research techniques through programs like the Tennessee Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Institute faculty has also helped to coordinate the Tennessee Science Olympiad for high school participants. Governor’s School for the Sciences and Engineering is a yearly summer program that hosts top high school students in the state.
An overview of biomedical engineering is provided yearly during Engineers Day, an event organized for potential engineering students from high schools across the region. All outreach activities aim to engage student interest which is essential to encourage further exploration in both science and engineering activities and careers.
Extending beyond the educational goals within the local school systems, iBME strives to make a community influence by demonstrating the impact biomedical engineering has on everyday life. Large-scale education seminars have been organized to express the importance of health care screening within the community. One iBME faculty member in particular helped organize an event to engage the community in understanding the significance of colorectal cancer screening as an effective way to save lives. Researchers have collected data from the event including participant feedback and whether or not a subsequent screening has been scheduled and will use this information to influence how future community engagements are organized.