BioMed Students Measure Electrical Muscle Stimulation

10th graders Gabrielle Coghill and Jeremiah Rivera work on their Human Body Systems class lab

This is a typical day in Mr. Whitaker’s 10th grade Human Body Systems class, a course that is part of Deptford High School’s Academy of Biomedical Sciences and Nursing/Allied Health program: students completed a lab project measuring electrical stimulation in muscles.

“In this lab, we’re measuring reflexes and reaction time,” explained Whitaker. “The students use a reflex hammer with an accelerometer on it, attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG) sensor, hitting the patellar tendon in the knee so we can visually see when it accelerates or decelerates down to zero when it hits something, and we can graph that. In comparison, we look at the precise point of time of an electrical stimulation in the quadriceps muscle, when it kicks. Then we can compare the two.”

Electrocardiogram (EKG) sensors and a accelerometer attached to a reflex hammer

The lesson is part of a larger unit explaining the evolutionary purpose of reflexes and why we have them. Use of these tools is a regular occurrence for the students.

“These are the same EKG tabs used in any medical facility,” continued Whitaker. “They conduct electricity and are sensitive to very small changes in electrical current so we can measure those differences. We use Logger Pro computer software in our academy classes to collect data for human physiology and other things like bacteria or carbon dioxide. Here, we’re using it to interpret time, but, in another lab, we use it to measure volume of lung capacity in parts per million, for instance.”

Student data in the program Logger Pro

All the students were engaged in the lab, working diligently to see just what the results would be.

“I enjoy doing these labs because they are more hands-on and fun because you get to see more in-depth about what you’re learning,” said Kaylee Helwig, sophomore Biomedical Academy student. “The academy classes are definitely more hands-on. That is important for me. We’ve used the EKG sensors before, like in a lab last year measuring our heart rate. We’re very familiar with using this type of equipment.”

“After looking at the times of the stimulus versus the reflex, and analyzing the data, the students will find the reflex time is shorter than the reaction time, and then we’re going to discuss why that is,” said Whitaker. “We’ll discuss the anatomy of reflexes versus responding to a stimulus with a reaction because the neural pathways are different, even though we’re talking about milliseconds.”

The lab is a memorable one, as are all the experiments conducted in the academy program.

10th grader James Loreno records data for the experiment

“These students are sophomores, and I see them again as seniors,” continued Whitaker. “The students remember this activity, and they remember the data. I could have given this via lecture in ten minutes, but that would have been lost on them. We’ve purposefully created a hands-on lesson experience with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements so the students remember the experience and especially the learning and can access and build upon this knowledge later. Our labs are geared around inquiry.”

Mr. Whitaker assists students Farrah Sacharok (left) and Jocelyn Davis

“The universities love our students because they come with a hands-on toolkit that the average high school student doesn’t come with. Our students are using micropipettes, incubators, microcentrifuges – I didn’t using this stuff until I was a junior in college, many students elsewhere don’t use this until that same time – our students use it in high school. Since our students have worked with this equipment, they can focus on a lab’s essential questions. There are no user errors because of an unfamiliarity with the tools.”

As for Helwig, she is knows that these experiences are giving her great relevant, hands-on experience.

“I want to be a veterinarian. This is definitely relevant to what I want to do in the future.”


CLICK HERE for more information on Deptford High School’s Academy of Biomedical Sciences and Nursing/Allied Health.