Hands-on Activity: Generating Ideas & Questions: What Is Going on with Grandma?

Contributed by: VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University

An X-ray of a woman's fractured hip.
Grandma's fractured hip
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/11/Cdm_hip_fracture_343.jpg


Students are introduced to the concepts of the challenge question. First independently, and then in small groups, they generate ideas for solving the grand challenge introduced in the associated lesson: Your grandmother has a fractured hip and a BMD of -3.3. What medical diagnosis explains her condition? What are some possible causes? What are preventative measures for other family members? Students complete a worksheet that contains the pertinent questions, as well as develop additional questions of their own, all with the focus on determining what additional background knowledge they need to research. Finally, as a class, students compile their ideas, resulting in a visual as a learning supplement.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Some biomedical engineers focus on improving the current methods used to detect medical disorders. They continually seek less invasive methods that are more cost efficient and have better diagnostic results. Other engineers focus on improving the methods used to detect osteoporosis via nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which produces images that can be directly correlated to bone strength.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Apply background knowledge about osteoporosis and biomedical engineering to begin solving the challenge.
  • Identify gaps in student knowledge needed to solve the challenge.

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High School Lesson

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.

  • Apply concepts of statistics and probability to explain the variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Medical technologies include prevention and rehabilitation, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, medical and surgical procedures, genetic engineering, and the systems within which health is protected and maintained. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
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Materials List

Bone Module Worksheet, one per student


Today let's continue to brainstorm thoughts in response to the challenge question.

Engineers are presented with challenges every day so they generate ideas and gather the information necessary to find solutions. Specifically, biomedical engineers study problems associated with the human body in order to find solutions.

In this activity, you will follow the same process. First, consider what background knowledge you have that will help you to answer this question. Then, consider the topics you need to learn to answer the challenge question.

(Hand out the worksheets.) On this worksheet, record your thoughts. Then, after several minutes, you will join with a partner and brainstorm for a little while longer. I will ask you to share your responses with the rest of the class. We will categorize everyone's ideas into the main topics that we need to explore in order to help you answer the challenge question.


biomedical engineering: The application of engineering principles and techniques to the medical field. It combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to help improve patient health care and the quality of life of individuals.

BMD: Acronym for bone mineral density. BMD is the mineral content in a given volume of bone, used as a measure of bony health and in the diagnosis of osteoporosis.

DEXA scan: Acronym for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. A device that measures bone mineral density.

osteoporosis: A disorder in which the bones become increasingly porous, brittle and subject to fracture, owing to loss of calcium and other mineral components.



This activity introduces students to the first step of the legacy cycle: generating ideas. Students begin generating ideas on the challenge question and contribute to a class discussion in an engaging manner.

Before the Activity

With the Students

  1. Describe the challenge to the students.
  2. Ask students to individually make notes on their worksheets for a few minutes as they reflect on what they know and what they learned in the videos presented in the Fix the Hip Challenge lesson.
  3. Then assign small groups and have students share their thoughts with each other, recording all their brainstorming ideas on the worksheets.
  4. As a class, ask students from each group to share their thoughts.
  5. Compile student suggestions on the board to provide a visual.
  6. Encourage students to develop their own questions that need to be answered as well.
  7. Generate a list of a few knowledge areas on which the students should focus. Categorize the concepts they have suggested into the knowledge areas.



Activity Embedded Assessment

Worksheets: Have students complete the Bone Module Worksheet; review their notes to assess their comprehension of the subject matter. Determine students' daily participation grade by considering their individual contributions while the class compiles its thoughts.

Post-Activity Assessment

Calculated Risk Problem: Many gene mutations can increase the chances of a person developing osteoporosis, and researchers are determining the roll of each of these genes in bone development. Some of the genes involved include the vitamin D receptor gene, the COLIA1 gene and the COLIA2 gene. Give students the following problem scenario to solve:

  • Your grandmother possesses two of the mutations linked to osteoporosis. Calculate the risk of her passing one of these genetic traits to you. Assume a 50% chance that a gene gets passed from mother to child, the rest of your grandparents do not possess these mutations, and the mutations are independent.

Answer: Assuming a child has a 50% risk of inheriting each mutation from his/her parent, a 50% chance exists that your grandmother passes each trait to her child (let's say, your mother). If we label the mutations A and B, The probability that your mother receives the trait A is P(A)=0.5, and the probability that your mother receives trait B is P(B)=0.5. The probability that your mother receives both traits is P(A and B) = P(A)P(B) = (0.5)(0.5) = 0.25. The chance of your mother receiving A or B is P(A or B) = P(A) + P(B) - P(A and B) = 0.75 or 75%. Thus, your mother has a 75% chance of inheriting one or both of the genes. Similarly, for you, P(A) = (0.5)(0.5) = 0.25, P(B) = (0.5)(0.5) = 0.25, P(A and B) = P(A)P(B) = (0.25)(0.25) = 0.0625, and finally, P(A or B) = P(A) + P(B) - P(A and B) = 0.25 + 0.25 - 0.0625 = 0.4375. So, you have a 43.75% chance of inheriting one or both of the genes from your grandmother.


Dictionary.com Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House. Accessed January 5, 2010. http://www.dictionary.com.


Morgan Evans


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2010 Vanderbilt University

Supporting Program

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under National Science Foundation RET grant nos. 0338092 and 0742871. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 18, 2018