WEST HAVEN, Conn. – 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.
HEAR WHAT WHHS STUDENTS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE STEM DEPARTMENT…
“I’ve been a part of the biomedical program since my junior year of high school and I absolutely love it. When I first joined Principles of Biomedical Science, I didn’t think it was going to be as fun as it is. We did hands-on work, labs, experimental designing, and many more things but my favorite was designing an Emergency Room. This project allowed me to collaborate and discuss my ideas with my teammates, and together, we designed the best emergency room. This is what made me take biomedical Innovations this year.” – Roua Almaksoudi, senior.
“The program is very interesting and engaging, all the equipment we have access to is state of the art, and the environment and classes offered all provide an excellent learning experience.” -- Joshua Doody, senior.
“My experience with the Biomed program has been very positive. I loved how hands-on the experience was, as well as how interactive it was working with other students and working together as a class. As a student who learns visually, most of the class is based on visuals and makes it easier for me to learn throughout.” – Melanie Gloster, senior.
“Throughout my Biomed program, I’ve investigated tons of medical professions through our work which has helped me get a sense of what I want to do in the future.” – Ahmed Mohamednour, senior.
“The Biomed program is most definitely a fun experience in high school. We focus more on hands-on work and labs as a group. We become compatible with one another while still enjoying the experience.” – Saana Mohammed, senior.
“From a student perspective of the Biomedical Innovations program, I have enjoyed the class in its entirety since enrolling. The Biomed Program is truly one of a kind. It is graded based not on quizzes or tests like a usual classroom setting, but on presentations, labs, and classroom challenges. It is also heavily based on teamwork and partners. My favorite unit during my time taking the Biomedical Innovations program was definitely researching a common public health problem, creating a grant proposal, and ultimately presenting to members of the board, my peers, and the nursing program, my team's solution to the problem. I recommend all students take the biomedical innovations class when they are seniors, or join the biomedical program in general. It allows you to think outside the box and create ideas you've never thought of before. It expands your creativity, and overall is one of the classes that add a highlight to my senior year!” - V.P. Mumar, senior.
“During my 4 years in this Biomedical track, not only did I learn essential life skills, but I was able to connect with the teachers and classmates greater than I’ve ever done in any other classroom. The classroom environment is by far the most comfortable and enjoyable environment I have ever been in out of all my years in high school.” – Justin Rodriguez, senior.
“The Biomedical Program at West Haven High School has taught me so many life skills. It has guided me in picking my major for college and planning my career. It is such a fun course, and I enjoyed all of the experiments we’ve done. I have had only good experiences in this course and will continue to recommend it!” – Robert Vets, senior.
“What I enjoy about this program is working with the building materials and the vex materials. After each new subject, the notes have been very helpful to help imply the projects that we're working on. I also enjoy working with the groups in these programs, it helps others be able to socialize and work as a team.” – Khai Outhavong, junior.