Hands-on Activity: You're the Expert

Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Eight NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand behind posters that show graphics and text explaining their projects.
Technical presentation using graphics.
Copyright © NASA http://funphysics.jpl.nasa.gov/technical/library/sig-events-02/sig021101-edu-a.html


Student teams learn about and devise technical presentations on four reproductive technology topics—pregnancy ultrasound, amniocentesis, in-vitro fertilization or labor anesthetics. Each team acts as a panel of engineers asked to make a presentation to a group of students unfamiliar with the reproductive technology. Each group incorporates non-lecture elements into its presentation for greater effectiveness. As students learn about the technologies, by creating a presentation and listening to other groups' presentations, they also learn more about the valuable skill of technical communications.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Innovative reproductive technologies and processes were created and refined by engineers working with physicians and patients. To put their ideas into practice, engineers first present their ideas to doctors and patients who might use the technology. Many people do not realize that giving quality, understandable technical presentations is important to the careers of all types of engineers. Great technologies and ideas would never be implemented if they were not first effectively communicated to different audiences.

Pre-Req Knowledge

Students should know how human babies are made. A general familiarity with the human reproductive system helps students understand reproductive technologies.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Describe in depth one particular reproductive technology.
  • Present technical data to their classmates in a variety of formats (that is, in addition to a lecture).
  • Identify advantages, disadvantages and suggestions for improvement of reproductive technologies.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Advances and innovations in medical technologies are used to improve healthcare. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop, communicate, and justify an evidence-based scientific explanation regarding the functions and interactions of the human body (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Gather, analyze, and interpret data and models on the functions and interactions of the human body (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:


Are you aware of all the important technical advances that have affected families, mothers and babies around the world? Let's review some statistics that show the effect that biomedical engineers, along with doctors and nurses, have had on births in the US:

  • More than 4 million US babies survive birth each year.
  • In 1996, more than 20,000 babies were born to women who used assisted reproduction technologies (ART).
  • The infant mortality rate has improved dramatically from 58.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1933 to 6.63 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004!
  • Recent surveys of mothers indicate that 80% use labor anesthetics.
  • Prenatal care, which typically involves pregnancy ultrasound tests, significantly reduces the chance of premature births. Reducing the number of premature births reduces the number of infant health complications and deaths.

Let's look in detail at four reproductive technologies — pregnancy ultrasound, amniocentesis, in-vitro fertilization and labor anesthetics. Believe it or not, all four of these technologies affect each of those statistics!

Today, you are part of a team of biomedical engineers that has been asked to make a presentation on one of these technologies to a classroom of students who have never heard of it before. First, your group must learn everything you can about your technology specialty. Then, your engineering team must decide how to present this information to the audience (the rest of the class). You will be given five minutes for your presentation.

How would you present a technical concept to people who have not heard of it before? You could lecture them. Would that work? What other things might you do to get your audience interested and help them understand it better? (Possible ideas: Show graphs, drawings, pictures, charts, poems, skits, interactive demonstrations, diagrams, flow charts, cartoons, etc.)

What is important to remember when you are trying to communicate a technical concept to a group of people? I'll write these points on the board so that you can keep them in mind when your group is designing its presentation.

  • Who is your audience? What is their level of knowledge and interests?
  • Mix it up – use different speakers, and do not just lecture.
  • Explain the concepts clearly.
  • Describe the purpose of the technology – why was it invented?
  • Suggest future improvements or ideas to the technology.
  • Be interactive with the audience.


amniocentesis: A common prenatal test in which a small sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus is removed and examined to diagnose chromosomal and genetic birth defects.

anesthetic: A substance that causes lack of feeling or awareness.

assisted reproductive technology: A set of techniques to help a woman achieve pregnancy after other surgical and hormonal methods have failed, encompassing controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) and intrauterine insemination (IUI), in-vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF-ET), gamete intrafallopian transfer GIFT and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT). Abbreviated as ART.

biomedical engineer: A person who blends traditional engineering techniques with the biological sciences and medicine to improve the quality of human health and life. Biomedical engineers design artificial body parts, medical devices, diagnostic tools, and medical treatment methods.

engineer: A person who applies his/her understanding of science and math to creating things for the benefit of humanity and our world.

insemination: To impregnate by intercourse or by artificially injecting semen.

in-vitro fertilization: Fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. Abbreviated as IVF.

prenatal: Existing or taking place before birth.

trimester: In human pregnancy, a period of time lasting approximately three months.

ultrasound: A method of seeing the fetus and female pelvic organs during pregnancy. An ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves that bounce off body structures to create an image. Also called a sonogram.



The reproductive technology information presented in each of the four attached handouts also serves as background information for the teacher, who may be asked questions by the students.

Before the Activity

  • Gather materials and make copies of the four reproductive technologies handouts and the vocabulary handout, one per team (or a few copies per team).
  • Review students' basic familiarity of the human reproduction system.

With the Students

  1. Divide the class into teams of three students each, and distribute a reproductive technology handout to each team.
  2. Give each group a vocabulary handout to help with new words encountered.
  3. Have students read their team's handout, referring to the vocabulary handout and asking the teacher for help, as necessary.
  4. Once all team members have read and understood the technical information about their reproductive technology, give them time to discuss how to best present the information to an audience who does not know about the technology. Direct them to brainstorm respectfully within their group to design a creative and effective visual and oral presentation. Let students know that they have five minutes to present their topic.
  5. Remind students that in their presentation, they must also communicate the advantages and disadvantages of this technology and mention suggestions for further improvements to the technology (perhaps to address societal impacts).
  6. Give students time to work on their presentations, making a plan, preparing the visual elements and rehearsing the oral elements.
  7. Have each engineering team makes its presentation to the class.
  8. Conclude by leading a class discussion to review the need for engineered medical treatment and diagnostic techniques, and the specific technologies researched for reproductive care. Review advantages, disadvantages and suggestions for improvement for the reproductive technologies. See suggested post-activity line of inquiry about the larger engineering societal impacts to consider, as provided in the Assessment section. Discuss the successful and unsuccessful presentation approaches.


Troubleshooting Tips

If more than four groups are necessitated by the size of the class, then assign more than one group to study the same technology. Encourage students to think of the topic repetition as an opportunity to compare presentation approaches to the same material.


Pre-Activity Assessment

Know / Want to Know / Learn (KWL) Chart: Create four classroom KWL charts to help organize learning about the new topics. On large sheets of paper or on the classroom board, draw a chart with the title of each reproductive technology at the top. Draw three columns titled, K, W and L, representing what students know about the topic, what they want to know about the topic and what they learned about the topic. Fill out the K and W sections during the introduction as facts and questions emerge. Fill out the L section at the end of the activity.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Group Questions: During the activity, ask the groups:

  • Why was your technology invented? How does it help people?
  • What is your non-lecture element(s) going to be in the presentation? Why did you choose that format?

Post-Activity Assessment

Engineering Impacts: Engineers always think about the design of new technologies based on the needs of their clients, and they also consider how the introduction of technologies might affect other people or the environment. Engage students in a discussion of the broader impacts of the technologies from their presentations. What are some of the effects of the technologies on individuals, society and the environment? (Are there ethical, economical, and social changes that might result from the use of these technologies?)

KWL Chart (Conclusion): As a class, finish column L of the KWL Charts as described in the pre-activity assessment section. List all of the things they learned. Were all of the W questions answered? What new things did they learn?

Activity Extensions

Once students have heard presentations on all four reproductive technologies, assign them to each write an essay critiquing one technologies and suggesting improvements or future technological advances to expand upon it.

Activity Scaling

  • For lower grades, this activity is not recommended due to the level of reading required in the handouts.
  • For upper grades, have students turn in a written presentation "script" or storyboard that is graded.

Additional Multimedia Support

See tips for poster creation at: http://itll.colorado.edu/images/uploads/courses_workshops/geen1400/textbook/ch13posters.pdf


Amniocentesis, Medical References, Quick References: Fact Sheets. Updated August 2008. March of Dimes Foundation. Accessed February 17, 2009. http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/14332_1164.asp

Durham, Janelle. Transition to Parenthood: Some Statistics for Pregnancy, Labor and Birth. January 2003. Janelle Durham. Accessed February 17, 2009. http://transitiontoparenthood.com/ttp/foreducators/ceinfo/stats.htm

The Fertility Race: Statistics. Updated September 20, 1999. American Public Media. Accessed February 17, 2009. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/fertility_race/common/stats.shtml

Grossman, Neil. Pregnancy Ultrasound. Medical Encyclopedia. Updated January 29, 2009. Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Accessed February 17, 2009. (information and photographs) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003778.htm

In-Vitro Fertilization: IVF. Updated May 2007. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed February 17, 2009. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/infertility/ivf.html

Kochanek, Kenneth and Martin, Joyce. Supplemental Analyses of Recent Trends in Infant Mortality. Last reviewed October 15, 2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed February 17, 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/infantmort/infantmort.htm

Medications for Labor, Labor and Birth. Pregnancy-Info.Net. Accessed February 17, 2009. http://www.pregnancy-info.net/labor_medication.html


Kristin Field; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Denise W. Carlson


© 2007 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation (GK-12 grant no. 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: May 25, 2017