The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has received a $1.27 million science education research grant to teach Little Rock School District students about STEM careers and cardiovascular health using handheld ultrasound devices and other interactive technology.
The five-year Science Education Partnership Award comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
The school district and UAMS are partners in the program, called ArkanSONO.
UAMS faculty will bring programs to ninth-grade physical science classes in the district, and its campus will host week-long summer camps each year of the grant.
The project's aim is to teach students about science, technology, engineering and math and to research the most effective ways to inspire students to pursue STEM careers.
"Educational outreach is needed in a state like Arkansas, where we are challenged by racial, ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities, as well as growing shortages of health care professionals," Dr. Christopher Westfall, interim dean of the College of Medicine, said in a news release. "We must develop new and innovative methods for cultivating a larger, more diverse and culturally competent health care workforce."
Kevin Phelan, co-director of the Division of Clinical Anatomy in the College of Medicine, is leading ArkanSONO.
In the classrooms, UAMS faculty will use medical-grade handheld ultrasound devices to teach basics about the physics of sound, how ultrasounds work and how they are used in various STEM fields, including medicine, biomedical research and industry. Later, students will use the ultrasounds to conduct their own experiments.
"It's a novel approach that has a bit of a 'wow' factor with students," Phelan said. "They get to see blood vessels expanding or contracting in real time, or see tendons moving under the skin. We all had a favorite teacher, or can think back to an exciting educational experience that sparked our interest and propelled us to our futures. We’re hoping that, for some of these students, this can be that experience for them."