In 2015, the Michigan State Board of Education voted to adopt new Michigan Science Standards that heavily draw on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Among all the performance expectations from these science standards, incorporating high school engineering design requires more effective collaboration between K-12 teachers, higher educators, scientists, and engineers. Without such collaborative effort, K-12 teachers could face tremendous challenges for the design and implementation of meaningful engineering education lessons that could meet the standards. Michigan State University St. Andrew at Midland, MI was established in 2015 through the support of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, and the Dow Chemical Company Foundation. The center offers various educational programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) for K-12 teachers and students in the greater Midland region. More importantly, the MSU STEAM Center, well-equipped with materials science and engineering research equipment, provides a platform for K-12 teachers and students to collaborate with higher educators, as well as experienced scientists and engineers. This paper summarized the design and implementation of engineering education research offered by the MSU STEAM Center to high school juniors in summer 2019. The research project was focused on the computer-aid design, fabrication, mechanical testing, and statistical life data analysis of 3D-printed polymeric biomaterials. 3D printing technology has been widely used in the fabrication of biomaterials for tissue engineering. There would be value in determining the degree to which one may fashion scaffolds with readily available low-cost polymer filaments using affordable 3D printers, particularly for early-stage prototyping. This research focused on the bone defect area of tissue engineering. Bone defects, both congenital and acquired, are serious and costly impairments. Beyond a critical size the defects (i.e., fractures) are not able to heal without further medical intervention. An effective treatment technique is to implant a biodegradable scaffold at the injured site to promote bone regeneration by attracting cells to the area. Using additive manufacturing, scaffolds can be fabricated to the specific needs of patients. In this project, scaffolds were modeled and fabricated in the form of a cube using various polymers and biopolymers (e.g., PCL, PLA, PVA, PLA/PHA, and an olefin block copolymer) with different geometric configurations and infill percentages. The mechanical properties of the scaffolds were characterized using compression tests to determine the yield stresses and compressive Young’s moduli. The reliability of the mechanical properties of scaffolds was estimated with the use of Weibull statistical analysis to determine a probability of failure. The results were compared with yield stresses and moduli of different trabecular bone tissues at multiple anatomical locations, and enhanced understanding of the structural optimization of polymer scaffolds and as an aid to tissue regeneration for bone defects. In this paper, the education and research outcomes of the summer program, along with future education plans were discussed in detail.
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