Lesson: Presenting Painless Breast Cancer Detection!

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

A group of participants take a photo for the 2012 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in NYC.
Students learn about breast cancer detection
Copyright © Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/affiliate/8116044535/in/photostream/


This lesson culminates the unit with the Go Public phase of the legacy cycle. In the associated activity, students depict a tumor amidst healthy body tissue using a Microsoft Excel® graph. In addition, students design a brochure for both patients and doctors advertising a new form of painless yet reliable breast cancer detection. Together, the in-class activity and the take-home assignment function as an assessment of what students have learned throughout the unit.

Engineering Connection

As part of the engineering design process, when a need in society is established as an engineering challenge, in order for the challenge to be solved, the solution must be well tested, found to be reliable and then presented to the demographic in need, through evidential explanations. For example, in the case of biomedical engineering, a need for painless, reliable breast cancer detection has been presented to researchers at the university level. Following the engineering design process, once a well-tested, consistent and accurate solution has been established in ultrasound technology, it must be presented to radiologists in hopes of implementation on a clinical level. Similarly, in the associated activity, students must demonstrate the accuracy of their solution; while in the lesson's assessment, students must present the solution to doctors and patients with an informative brochure.

Educational Standards

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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).

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Pre-Req Knowledge

A complete understanding of Hooke's law and stress-strain relationships.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Present a painless means of detecting breast cancer.
  • Explain how knowing the different properties of a material can lead to a useful solution.
  • Describe the role of tissue properties in detecting a tumor.
  • Produce an image depicting the location of a tumor.


Today is the big day! Today we will design a painless yet reliable method for detecting breast cancer. This is the time to Go Public with what you've learned! First you will complete the in-class portion in which you create a graph depicting the location of a tumor given certain conditions. Then you have three nights to complete the take-home portion in which you create a brochure advertising the new form of breast cancer detection to patients and doctors. Your brochure should explain how it works and the advantages and disadvantages of your design. It should also explain how you disseminated the problem and found a manageable solution to a complex issue. Please use the grading rubric to guide your brochure design.

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

Legacy Cycle Information

This lesson includes the final step of the legacy cycle, the Go Public step. In the associated activity (You be the Radiologist!), students create a graph depicting the location of a tumor amidst fatty tissue, given certain conditions. In the take-home portion of the Go Public phase, students are given three to design a brochure advertising the new form of breast cancer detection to patients and doctors. The brochure should explain how the detection works, its advantages and its disadvantages.

Informative Brochure

Distribute the attached grading rubric to the class. Have each student prepare his/her own brochure and use the grading rubric as a guide in assessing student designs.


cancer: A malignant and invasive growth or tumor tending to recur after removal and to metastasize to other sites.

force: An influence on a body or system, producing a change in movement or in shape or other effects.

spring: An elastic body such as a wire of steel coiled spirally that recovers its shape after being compressed, bent or stretched.

strain: Deformation of a body or structure as a result of an applied force beyond limit.

stress: The physical pressure, pull or other force exerted on a system by another, producing a strain. Measured by the ratio of force to area.

Associated Activities

  • You Be the Radiologist! - Students create a 1-D strain plot in Microsoft Excel® depicting the location of a breast tumor amidst healthy tissue. They also create a descriptive brochure. The results of this activity function as proof of the accuracy and reliability of students' breast cancer detection design.



Embedded Assessment:

Give each student a composite grade based on the graph generated in the associated activity as well as the informative brochure.


Dictionary.com. Lexico Publishing Group,LLC. Accessed December 28, 2008. (Source of vocabulary definitions, with some adaptation) http://www.dictionary.com


Luke Diamond; Meghan Murphy


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2007 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.