Hands-on Activity: Electrocardiograph Building
Educational Standards :
Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)
An understanding of heart function and how the electrical signal propagates, the basics of EKG signals and the connection between the physiological function and device measurements, basic electrical circuit knowledge and how electricity flows through electrical components.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to describe how the bioelectrical signal propagates though the heart and how that signal is able to be captured. In addition, they should be able to describe a biological problem as an engineer would.
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Who has heard of an EKG? The electrocardiograph (EKG or ECG) is one of the most fundamental pieces of medical equipment. Physicians use this engineer-designed equipment to detect irregular heart rhythms caused by heart disease.
(This activity reinforces the concepts of bioelectricity and heart function taught in the associated lesson, The Strongest Pump of All. Present students with the basic pre-built EKG circuit and hook it up to individual students to detect and visualize their heart rhythms. Then have students analyze some provided irregular EKG signals and anaytically decide what and why the patient has an irregular signal. Measure success by whether students are able to comprehend the function of an EKG in a clinical setting and if they are able use their own problem solving skills to deduct the physiological conditions connected to the EKG print-outs.)
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Overview for Teacher
In the first part of the activity, students are presented with the EKG circuit built by the teacher. The teacher places the black modules over each section of the circuit so that the students are able to visualize the function of each segment of the circuit. The teacher then removes the module covers and shows students that the device is not complex or mysterious.
After that demonstration, the teacher connects the device to the power supply and connects the output of the circuit to the oscilloscope. Pick a student volunteer from the class. Place electrodes on the student's forearms and ankle while the student is seated in front of the class in close proximity to the device. Connect the detection leads from the circuit to the electrodes and turn on the power supply. The oscilloscope make visual the student's heart rhythm, just as a professional EKG would do. Make sure that the oscilloscope can be viewed by all the students in the classroom. If space permits and enough slack is available in the EKG leads, have the student jog carefully in place to increase his/her heart rate. Again, allow all the students to view the oscilloscope and make sure attention is drawn to the fact that the heart rhythm has increased. If time allows, connect another student to the oscilloscope to further the demonstration that the circuit functions, just as a professional EKG does.
The next section of the activity is in handout form. Divide the class into groups of four or five students each. Pass out the same handout to each member of the group. Direct students to discuss the handout and its questions carefully. While the students are discussing the handout in groups, walk around the classroom and answer any questions that arise. If more guidance is needed, give the class hints as to how to answer the questions. Allow enough time at the end of the class to go over the handout questions. This should be done with the entire class using an overhead projector or Elmo. The handout answers are designed to encourage students to develop an understanding of the different stages of heart failure. When connected in order, the EKG of handouts #1 through #4 show the process of heart failure. If desired, the teacher could further develop each condition by explaining additional medical details, such as the use of a defibrillator for treatment.
Background: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a major cause of disability. Almost 700,000 people die of heart disease each year, which is about 29% of all U.S. deaths. Heart disease is a term that includes several more specific heart conditions. The most common heart disease in the U.S. is coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack. The bio-potentials generated by the heart muscles result in an electrical signal called electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). It is one of the most important physiological tests, used extensively for measuring the state of cardiac patients. An electrocardiograph enables a rapid observation of the behavior of the heart activity in terms of heart rhythm, conduction intervals, morphological aspects of the waves (P,Q,R,S,T) associated with depolarization and repolarization of the auricles and ventricles.
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Students are connected to a teacher-built electronic circuit and the power supplied to the circuit could be harmful if the circuit were built incorrectly. The diagram shows a 10 k-ohm resistor between the electrode and the rest of the circuit for both the right and left arms. These resistors protect the student if the circuit is built incorrectly in most cases. If you are unfamiliar building electric circuits, it is worthwhile to engage the help of someone who has a bit more experience with electric circuits.
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
From a technical aspect, the biggest challenge for the teacher is the construction of the EKG circuit. The electrical diagram included is in a standard form. The teacher may want to recruit help from a person with some experience in electrical circuits. If the circuit cannot be successfully constructed, a simple heart rate monitor from a pharmacy could partially replace the role of the EKG circuit in this activity. Using a simple heart rate monitor would not enable students to visualize the entire signal, but they could see how their heart rates increase/decrease with varying levels of activity.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Several assessments are available to gauge the students' perception and retention of the materials presented in the lesson plan.
These assessments are all located at the end of this lesson plan, with the exception of the activity assessment, which is located at the end of the activity plan.
ContributorsJames Crawford, Katherine Murray, Mark Remaly, Shayn Peirce, Leyf Peirce
Copyright© 2007 by University of Virginia
including copyrighted works from other educational institutions and/or U.S. government agencies; all rights reserved.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia
Last Modified: April 1, 2013