Curricular Unit: Biomedical Engineering and the Human Body

Quick Look

Grade Level: 7 (4-7)

Choose From: 10 lessons and 14 activities

Subject Areas: Life Science

Five images: man blowing into a spirometer, assorted pills and tablets, man taking a step with his artificial leg, black and white sonogram shows shape of fetus, drawing of DNA double helix.
Engineers are increasingly involved in design for the human body.
Copyright © (left to right) Medline Plus, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health;; Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention;; Walther Thill, US Department of Veteran's Administration;; Jim Gathany, US Department of Health and Human Services;; President's DNA Initiative, US Department of Justice


Human beings are fascinating and complex living organisms—a symphony of different functional systems working in concert. Through a 10-lesson series with hands-on activities students are introduced to seven systems of the human body—skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, sensory, and reproductive—as well as genetics. At every stage, they are also introduced to engineers' creative, real-world involvement in caring for the human body.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineers are increasingly involved in design for the human body. Biomedical engineers create artificial limbs using materials and sensors to replicate natural function and movement. Understanding the muscular system enables engineers to design everyday tools, appliances and products. Other engineers design medical solutions to improve health and address disorders. This may take the form of devices, implants, machines, medicines and technologies (diagnostic equipment, pacemakers, surgical techniques, hearing aids, laser eye surgery, ultrasound, amniocentesis, in-vitro fertilization, pain medicine). Engineers also apply their understanding of DNA to numerous real-world applications. As part of their design work, engineers create flow charts, prototypes and models, and make technical presentations, to learn, test and communicate their work.

Unit Overview

Overview of topics by lesson: 1) skeletal system, 2) muscular system, 3) circulatory system, 4) respiratory system, 5) digestive system, 6) auditory-hearing sensory system, 7) vision sensory system, 8) reproductive system, 9) genetics, and 10) skeletal system.

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 (

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.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

Alignment agreement:

The uses of technologies and any limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

Alignment agreement:

  • Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6) More Details

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The Heart of the Matter

This lesson describes how the circulatory system works, including the heart, blood vessels and blood. Students learn about the chambers and valves of the heart, the difference between veins and arteries, and the different components of blood.

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Digestive System

This lesson introduces students to the main parts of the digestive system and how they interact. In addition, students learn about some of the challenges astronauts face when eating in outer space. Engineers figure out how to deal with such challenges.

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Digestion Simulation

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Unit Schedule

The following schedule provides a suggested order of the lessons and activities. However, you may choose to only teach some of the activities – as your time and priorities permit.

Other Related Information

Optional: Show students the What Is Engineering? video)


© 2007 by Regents of the University of Colorado


See individual lessons and activities.

Supporting Program

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


This digital library content was developed by the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program under National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: January 3, 2020


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