24/05/2018

The SensUs High Schools Project: inspiring and stimulating teenagers towards innovation and biosensors

SensUs is an organization consisting of TU/e students and challenges student teams worldwide to develop innovative biosensing systems for the measurement of biomarkers. The aim is to stimulate education, innovation and public awareness and thereby improve the field of healthcare. Currently 13 international student teams are participating in the SensUs student competition which will take place on the 7th and 8th of September 2018 at the TU/e. This year, SensUs organises a brand new competition for high school students to raise the awareness of biosensing even further. We hope to encourage young talents for technology and all the diversity it has to offer by creating a learning environment that stimulates students towards creativity and building real prototypes.

Last year, SensUs organized a pilot competition for highschool students: the High Schools Project. This project was a real success, inspiring and stimulating teenagers towards innovation and biosensors. In this competition, 16 students from the ‘Van Maerlantlyceum’, a high school in Eindhoven, worked in small groups on a chosen biomarker related to the SensUs 2017 theme about heart failure. This year, we have grown to 3 different high schools (Stedelijk Gymnasium Breda, Van Maerlant Lyceum, and Frits Philips Lyceum) in the North-Brabant region. In this project, the students will focus on a biosensor that relates to the biosensor the university teams are going to develop for vancomycin.

The international university students make a biosensor to directly measure the vancomycin concentration in order to better dose vancomycin to prevent antibiotic resistance and toxicity. The high school students will design a biosensor concept that is able to detect the protein PBP2a. PBP2a is a protein produced by bacteria. When you are able to detect PBP2a you can get an indication whether your bacterial infection is lowering or not. The students will work following the TRIZ-model (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving). This method embodies that societal needs and problems are identified and translated into potentials. Eventually, the students will also present their concepts during the SensUs competition.

In March SensUs organized a kick-off lecture for all the participating high schoolers. They were told about SensUs’s visions and goals in general, the TRIZ-model and what the assignment entails. The students believe that SensUs is a great initiative. They especially liked the idea of working together to an overall goal of improving the healthcare industry. The most common biosensor for diabetics to measure their glucose levels was known, but they did not realize that biosensors have an even broader impact on all kind of measurements of syndromes and analysis. The students are thrilled to work on their own biosensor, but realize that it is going to be tough. They hope to learn many new  things and are really enthusiastic to start this project and be part of the SensUs Competition! Some of them are even considering studying at an university of technology.

That is what we hope to achieve with the High Schools Project: stimulating young talented students towards technology and all the diversity it has to offer. We think it is very important to stimulate students to participate in technical projects such as the High Schools Project, and thereby raise awareness for biosensing. Only then are students able to see what an university of technology really entails. They are not only orientating very well, but also practicing their soft skills such as making posters, working in groups and giving pitch presentations.   

We are looking forward to all the creativity and new ideas the High Schools Project will bring!