Students learning about the development of bioinks for 3D printing from a graduate student.
Nine high school-aged students attended the Biomaterials Lab for a week-long bootcamp in biomaterials. Students learned the basics of tissue engineering, 3D printing, and medical device design.
With hands-on demonstrations and experiments, they created their own "bioinks." These 3D-printable materials are especially suited for 3D printing with cells and biologically compatible components. The students also learned methods to analyze these 3D-printed constructs, using micro-computed tomography to take 3D medical images of different samples and then mechanical testing to determine how strong those constructs were.
"The Biomaterials Lab is a perfect environment for these types of projects," said Dr. Antonios Mikos, Director of the Biomaterials Lab. "We remain committed to STEM outreach and are always delighted to promote science."
The week culminated in two major engineering projects. First, students took all their acquired knowledge to design, developed, and fabricate their own prototype 3D-printed scaffolds. These scaffolds were intended as osteochondral plugs--devices that could replace both cartilage and bone in articulating joints. The students made 3D models which they 3D-printed from various biomaterials. With the aid of graduate students and post-doctoral students from the lab of Dr. Mikos, the devices were then put to the test by being crushed in a mechanical testing machine to determine the devices' compressive strength.
Students also spent the week printing and putting together prosthetic hands with basic grasping functionality.
"We loved welcoming such talented and inquisitive students into the lab," said Associate Director of the Biomaterials Lab, Dr. Anthony Melchiorri. "These students all have a bright future in science and engineering should they choose a STEM career, and we were impressed by the effort and creativity they put into designing their own 3D-printed bone scaffolds."
This experience was performed in partnership with Awty International School, Tomball High School, Seven Lakes High School, the Center for Engineering Complex Tissues, and the Biomaterials Lab.