By Michael O’Brien
Special to the Voice
It has been ten years since the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) department at West Haven High School was created, and the program continues to flourish.
Since 2012-13, the department has implemented nine college credit classes with five teaching teachers. WHHS offers Pathways Engineering (including a course in Cyber Security) and Biomedical Science. Each STEM class uses the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum [PLTW is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative STEM education curricular programs in the United States].
“STEM is one of the exciting ways students can collaborate on project-based learning to solve real-world problems,” said Raffaela Fronc, Science and STEM District Coordinator. “The courses provide authentic tasks for students to engage and prepare for the fire.”
The Biomedical Sciences and Engineering programs are rigorous STEM programs for motivated students. Those interested in pursuing careers in medicine, health care, public health, biomedical engineering, forensics, and many other related fields enroll in the Biomedical Science Program. Students interested in careers to help design, manufacture, and solve problems for just about everything—from the tallest skyscrapers to computer chips, from children’s toys to space shuttles, from lifesaving artificial heart valves to securing networks—would enroll in the Engineering program.
Through the STEM program, students acquire strong teamwork and communication practices to develop organizational, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills. Graduates from the program have gone on to study nursing, medicine, pharmacology, biomedical engineering, neuroscience, and various other majors, and have reported being very well prepared for their post-secondary programs.
“I am very proud of the program the STEM teachers deliver at West Haven High School daily,” said Eric Rice, STEM Liaison and Career and Technology Education Department Chair. “We have been 100% supported by our Administration and the Board of Education to deliver a technologically equipped program which prepares students for a future that will feature STEM-related skills and knowledge.”
The classes offered through the Engineering Pathway are Introduction to Engineering, Principals of Engineering, Digital Electronics, and Civil Engineering and Architecture. At any given time of year, students in Engineering can be working on a range of projects from robotics, solar-fuel cell cars, designing residential homes and commercial buildings, designing prosthetic devices and children’s toys, and developing digital circuit systems and cyber security solutions for networks.
The most recent course offered is a Cyber Security class for juniors and seniors. The course introduces the tools and concepts of cybersecurity and encourages students to create solutions that allow people to share computing resources while protecting privacy. Cybersecurity will enable students to use virtual machines and networks to safeguard and secure private and public systems. Students work on various simulations covering personal laptops, an e-commerce business, and a water treatment facility.
The Biomedical Science Pathway offers four classes: Principle of Biomedical Science, Human Body System, Medical Intervention, and Biomedical Innovations. The project-based courses use cutting-edge diagnostic techniques and explore treatment strategies. Students in the Biomedical Science program work through a wide range of project-based activities. Activities range from working as a forensic anthropologist to diagnosing and proposing treatment to patients in a family medical practice, using data acquisition software to monitor body functions, and taking on roles of biomedical professionals to solve real-world medical cases.
“The Biomedical Program available to West Haven High School students has truly been a remarkable asset to the school,” said Danielle Ricketts, WHHS senior and student representative for the Board of Education. “I feel so privileged to gain this great deal of knowledge about the biomedical field in high school. The collaborative nature and hands-on experience these classes give me easily make them one of my favorites at this school.”
WHHS student Aissatou Diallo added, “I am a current senior at WHHS who has been through all four courses of the Biomedical Sciences program, and it has been one of the most enriching experiences of my high school career. Mrs. [Teresa] Hartsoe and Ms. [Katherine] McDevitt are truly dedicated to their students, and it is evident they love the biomedical sciences. This program is the reason I will graduate as a certified EMT to jumpstart my career in the medical field.”
In the capstone Biomedical Innovations class, students set the course syllabus by determining what projects they will undertake, and they present each final project to an authentic audience. These projects have included cloning a gene, designing a more efficient and effective urban emergency room, creating a plan for addressing a public health issue, and completing a forensic autopsy on a still-born animal to determine its cause of death.
“I believe our choice to partner with Project Lead the Way, build relationships with supportive local universities and industry partners, and offer after-school learning opportunities, optimally position our students for post-secondary success,” added Rice. “It is truly a pleasure to see our teachers and students in action working alongside one another to solve complex problems in project-based environments. It is through programs like this that we will be able to maintain our economic competitiveness as a country.”
In addition, the STEM Department has several extracurricular activities as well: A.C.E. Mentor Program, Underwater ROV construction and competition, Girls in STEM, and VEX Robotics Club.