On Monday February 20, Bioengineering Outreach hosted students and mentors from the UW BIOXMS (Biomedical Research and Mentors in Science) program at Highline High School. The visiting students enjoyed a full day of activities led by BioE Lecturer Dianne Hendricks, faculty lead for Bioengineering Outreach.
The inspiration for Monday’s event was provided by BIOXMS mentor and UW second year student Camila Valdebenito, who was a student in Dr. Hendricks’ introductory bioengineering course and volunteered with Bioengineering Outreach at UW Engineering Discovery Days last year. “I was thrilled to re-connect with Camila and to learn about the very important work that UW students are doing through the BIOXMS program,” said Dr. Hendricks.
Through BIOXMS, UW student mentors visit students from underrepresented groups in STEM at Highline High School every week. The BIOXMS program was founded by Highline High School alumnus and current UW Medical student Dirir Abdullahi and Highline biology teacher Dawn Tessandore.
BIOXMS mentor Camila Valdebenito was immediately drawn to the core mission of BIOXMS. “As a Latina student pursuing a career in STEM at UW, I know that underrepresented minority students face many obstacles to success in college. It is so important for our community to support students in their transition to college. BIOXMS has given me the opportunity to reach out to a diverse group of students from Highline High School, and connect them to resources that will expose them to different STEM majors and prepare them for their college careers.”
In addition to Camila, three UW student BIOXMS mentors participated in the event: first year student Shyam Rabadia, second year student Rodha Sheikh, and third year Medical Anthropology and Global Health major Nafiso Egal.
BIOXMS mentor Rodha Sheikh adds that her experience in BIOXMS was extremely helpful when she was a student at Highline. “As a senior in high school, BIOXMS provided me with a support system which encouraged me to strive to be successful in my pursuit of higher education at the UW. I aim to provide that same support system to current Highline students, which is why I am a mentor.”
BioE Ph.D. student Molly Mollica and the BioE Honors Toy Adaptation team – comprised of BioE seniors Roujia Wang, Alexander Novodhokdko, Moritz Lange and Philip Lee – introduced the visiting students to the need for adapted toys for children with disabilities and led the students in adapting seven electronic toys which will be donated to local children with disabilities. Molly and the Honors Team were assisted by BioE senior Tiffany Ohlsen and prospective BioE students Amy Larsen and Lien White. (For more information on toy adaptation, please see BioE Outreach News and Events.)
“We are very excited to bring toy adaptation to UW BioE this year! Toy adaptation is wonderful because everyone benefits. The children with disabilities receive accessible toys, the high school students learn engineering skills such as soldering circuits and teamwork, and the BioE volunteers practice their leadership, communication, and technical skills,” notes Dr. Hendricks, who is also the faculty lead for the BioE Honors Program and co-mentors the honors team with Molly Mollica. Dr. Hendricks adds, “UW BioE is incredibly fortunate to have Molly’s expertise in toy adaptation.”
Over lunch, BIOXMS students enjoyed a panel of current UW BioE undergraduate students, who talked about preparing for college and how to survive the rigors of undergraduate STEM majors. This aligned well with the BIOXMS goal of introducing students to a variety of undergraduate STEM majors and pre-health programs.
Next, BioE PhD students David Peeler and Bob Lamm led the BIOXMS students on a tour of BioE Professor Suzie Pun’s research lab.
Students rotated through three hands-on activity stations: strawberry DNA extraction, prosthetics and simulated surgery. The activities were led by BioeE undergraduate students Vaishvani Dhawan, Bill Koski, Karl Manner, Colby Adams and Mohammed Talib, in addition to prospecive students in Dr. Hendricks’ introductory bioengineering course: Jason Fox, Jennifer Li, Zachary McNulty, Aditya Mehrota, Mingxin Ren, Yihan Wang, Lien White and Sean Wu,
Kalei Combs, BioE Program Coordinator and Director of the Bioengineering Summer Camp in Global Health, assisted with preparations for the event.
BIOXMS mentor Rodha Sheikh noted that seeing her mentees’ enthusiasm throughout the day was very rewarding. “Events like these are necessary to bridge the resource gaps between underserved communities and those of privileged communities. My awareness of discrepancies in the education system and my desire to do something about it is another reason I take part in BIOXMS.”
BIOXMS mentor Camila Valdebenito concluded, “I feel very fortunate to be part of BIOXMS this quarter. Not only have I met wonderful people, but it has given me the opportunity to explore different perspectives and become more sensitive to the current issues affecting our country.”