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9-12 > Technology
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Technology Duration: Two class periods
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Students will understand the following:
1. Scientists have been working for years on sophisticated artificial human parts, including technologically superior artificial limbs, hearing devices implanted in the cochlea, and eyes that transmit electric signals to the visual cortex.
2. Their work is already being used to help people with disabilities.
3. In an artificial human part, each device functions in place of an actual biological structure.

For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials on the human eye and brain
Computer with Internet access

1. Initiate a class discussion centering on what your students know about cyborgs and recent work of scientists who are creating sophisticated bionic human parts to help people with disabilities.
2. Encourage them to use the Internet to find out more about the work of Professor Richard Norman, who is attempting to restore sight by stimulating the brain in a normal fashion.
3. Encourage students to share their findings, making sure they are all aware that Norman is utilizing a video camera, microchips, and a microelectrode array to send signals to the visual cortex of the brain. (Alternately, tell the class about Norman’s work.)
4. Tell students that each device used in Norman’s bionic “eye” corresponds to an actual biological structure in the human eye or brain.
5. Challenge students to use research materials to determine the biological structure(s) that correspond to the following devices:
  1. Video camera
  2. Microchips
  3. Microelectrode array
6. Students should draw a clearly labeled diagram of each device and another diagram of the biological structure to which the device corresponds. Each pair of diagrams (device and corresponding biological structure) should be accompanied by a short explanation of the function of the device and structure.
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Provide students with a labeled diagram of the human eye, optic nerve, and brain. Hold a class discussion in which students match up parts of the human eye and brain to the three devices used in Professor Norman’s bionic “eye.”
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Discussion Questions

1. What technological advances must occur before bionic implants can become a reality?
2. Materials technology is very much a part of the development of bionic parts. What space-age materials are depicted in the video?
3. Bionic enhancement will give rise to many ethical issues, such as the factors used in determining who receives the implants. What other issues might arise?
4. Which mechanism of enhancement is preferable--electromechanical (e.g., bionic eyes, prosthesis) or biological (e.g., genetically engineered replacement tissue)? Why?
5. Why is implantation of bionic components so important?
6. Development of bionic humans might require redefinition of the term handicapped. Would a separate category of enhanced individuals be appropriate?
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You can evaluate your students on their diagrams and explanations using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:artificial devices and biological structures correctly paired; all six diagrams provided; all diagrams accurate and clearly labeled; explanations of functions correct and clearly stated
Two points:artificial devices and biological structures correctly paired; all six diagrams provided; most diagrams accurate and clearly labeled; explanations of functions correct, but lacking in clarity
One point:artificial devices and biological structures incorrectly paired; some diagrams missing; some diagrams inaccurate, not labeled correctly, or not labeled at all; some explanations inaccurate
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining how devices and structures should be paired
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The Bionic Time Line
Invite students to use the Internet to build a time line of technological and medical advancements in the field of bionics over the last century. Suggest a timescale that will allow students to see the rapid rate of increase in advancements. Students should choose a starting point that is relevant to them—perhaps the decade in which their parents were born. After the time line is completed, have students predict when the first bionic eye, bionic ear, and so on will be implanted.

Measuring Sensory Input
The greatest difficulty in developing artificial hands and arms has been a lack of sensory input. Have students conduct an experiment that will illustrate this problem. For example: Design an activity that requires manipulation of small objects, such as tracing a toothpick or tying a shoelace. Have students perform the activity normally. Then have them apply to the ends of their fingers lotion for relief of sunburns or fever blisters, which will cause a numbing effect. Then they can repeat the experiment and compare results.

Build Your Own Six-Million-Dollar Man (or Woman)
Divide the class into groups, and have each group choose a specific organ or system in the human body to research. Groups should use the Internet to research all the functions of the chosen organ or system. Next, group members should work together to design a bionic replacement that will perform equally well. Each design must include a statement of warranty on parts and labor, and predict what level of maintenance the bionic part would require. Have students determine prices for their designs. Then the class as a whole can estimate the cost for a fully assembled bionic person.

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Suggested Readings

"Inventing the Future"
Dana Hawkins, U.S. News and World Report, March 20, 1995
U.S. News describes the exciting biomedical engineering research being conducted across American campuses, and offers its survey-based ranking of the top 50 graduate schools in this field.

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The Whitaker Foundation: Biomedical Engineering News
Read descriptions of the latest-breaking biomedical research being performed, including the use of polymers in heart surgery and administering insulin shots without needles.

Neural Prosthetic Devices
Discusses the use of a bionic electrode being used to restore bodily functions lost through injury or disease.

AIPO - Bionic Ear Patent
This is the patent of the Cochlear bionic ear implant. The site describes the device and gives a graphic image of the design.

Bionic Valve Project
Shows with photos and drawings how a robot is used in surgery to help locate a tumor and to prevent damage to arteries.

Bionic Technologies, Inc.
This is the home page of a company that specializes in developing bionic technologies. The site gives reports on current advances in bionic research.

Describes a cyborg, offers links for identifying the different types of body replacement parts.

Online Movements from Integrated Orbital Implants
The most up-to-date and comprehensive resource for information about developments in ocular implants and artificial eyes.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    cyborg
Definition:A composite being in which living and artificial components are combined.
Context:By definition he is a cyborg--a man-machine hybrid.

speaker    microchip
Definition:An electronic circuit that consists of components of very small size.
Context:Their plan is to link a video camera to a microchip embedded in the visual cortex.

speaker    laser
Definition:Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A device that converts incident electromagnetic radiation of mixed frequencies to discrete frequencies of highly amplified and coherent visible radiation.
Context:They also intend to use a pair of camera glasses, but this time the TV signal will not go directly to the brain but will be sent by a laser into the eye.

speaker    carbon fiber
Definition:A technologically advanced material which has the properties of high strength and light weight.
Context:It's made of carbon fiber, weighs only four-and-a-half pounds, has 10 speeds and a shock absorber.

speaker    prosthesis
Definition:An artificial replacement for a missing body part.
Context:It's the most important part of the whole prosthesis.

speaker    actuators
Definition:Devices that put an object into motion.
Context:There isn't space for all of the man-made actuators that we would like to install to move every joint of an artificial limb.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:9-12
Subject area:physical science
Understands energy types, sources, and conversions, and their relationship to heat and temperature.
Knows that the energy of waves (electromagnetic and material) can be changed into other forms of energy (e.g., chemical and electrical), just as other forms of energy (chemical and nuclear) can be transformed into wave energy.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:physical science
Understands motion and the principles that explain it.
Knows that waves (e.g. sound, seismic, light, water) carry energy and can interact with matter.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the nature of scientific knowledge.
Knows that because all scientific ideas depend on experimental and observational confirmation, all scientific knowledge is, in principle, subject to change as new evidence becomes available; in areas where data, information, or understanding is incomplete, it is normal for scientific ideas to be incomplete, but this is also where the opportunity for making advances may be greatest.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the nature of technological design.
Proposes designs and chooses between alternatives (e.g.; models, simulations).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the interactions of science, technology, and society.
Knows that science often advances with the introduction of new technologies and solving technological problems often results in new scientific knowledge; new technologies often extend the current levels of scientific understanding and introduce new arenas of research.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the interactions of science, technology, and society.
Knows that science and technology are pursued for different purposes; scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world and seeks to answer questions that may or may not directly influence humans; technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems and has a more direct effect on society than science because its purpose is to solve human problems; help humans adapt, and fulfill human aspirations.

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Mary Ann Herbst, science teacher, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia.
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