Michigan Tech News

Student-designed Heart Monitors Bring the Excitement of Engineering to Kids

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By Monica Lester


Last Modified 1:54 PM, April 22, 2014

Blue Marble Security Enterprise students help middle schoolers assemble a heart monitor from a kit designed and built by the Enterprise. From the left, Philip Wolschendorf, Olivia Hohnholt, Hannah Hansen, Geneva Archer and Mike Switala.

April 11, 2014—

Many kids dream of being astronauts, scientists and inventors, but they don’t believe they’ll ever make it there. One stumbling block is that it’s not considered cool to be smart or to be a “geek.”

A collaborative group of students at Michigan Technological University is working to change that assumption, using a heart monitor designed by Tech students to illustrate the principles of circuits.

Mind Trekkers is a program under Michigan Tech’s Center for Pre-College Outreach. Its mission is to reveal the mysteries of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to students of all ages. 

“Mind Trekkers is a high-energy, interactive science carnival, “says Tom Maynard, the Mind Trekkers coordinator. “It’s always got music playing. There are activities for pre-college students to do that are facilitated by college students. It’s a traveling festival, so we pick up and go to all kinds of places; we go to venues where we entertain 15 people, and we go to venues where we entertain 15,000.”

Now Mind Trekkers is collaborating with Michigan Tech’s Blue Marble Security Enterprise to create something new to bring to their many events.

Blue Marble Security is an Enterprise on campus that focuses on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology. This time they’re doing it with a heart monitor they designed to help teach pre-college students about circuits and engineering.

“It teaches them how to solder and some basics of how circuits work, and then it gives them something in their hands that they constructed,” explains Mike Switala, vice president of public relations for Blue Marble Security. “They love it!”

Steve Patchin, director of the Center for Pre-College Outreach, explains:  “We’ve been looking for innovative activities that are really cool that we want to reproduce and take on the road with us. The Enterprise teams are creating great ideas and are able to get them out through Mind Trekkers. We see literally tens of thousands of kids annually, and what a great way to get all these ideas involving STEM out into the public.”

To launch this project and have enough kits to give every child at Mind Trekkers events an opportunity to work with the heart monitors, the Michigan Tech groups are putting the project on Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding website.  Aiming for $8,000, Mind Trekkers and Blue Marble Security are offering awards for pledges to the project. Reward levels begin at $5 and go up to $1,000. Awards for donating at the highest level include a classroom set consisting of up to 30 heart monitor kits, a signed photo of the Mind Trekkers and Blue Marble Security team, an authentic Mind Trekkers shirt, a personal heart monitor kit, directions on how to buy your own parts for a heart monitor kit, instructions, and five more lesson plans, 30 Mind Trekkers wristbands and recognition of the donation on the Mind Trekkers Facebook page.

 “We’re always looking for a way to get students to learn with their hands,” says Patchin. “It’s a great way to introduce them to science and engineering and ignite their curiosity.” Getting these kits into kids’ hands is important and you could be the difference.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.