Associate Professor Randy Tagg and Aurora LIGHTS students

Ask Physics Associate Professor Randy Tagg about the future of science and he will tell you the future is quite promising. Tagg has spent the last several months with high school students in the Aurora LIGHTS Innovation Academy as their “university scientist in residence.”  Colleagues in health-related fields provided ideas for real-world problems and students designed possible solutions.  Those solutions were showcased recently at the Aurora Public Schools Pathways Demonstration.

Tagg, along with CU Denver undergraduates Ben Straub, Sara Abdelrahman, Caleb Carr and Meseret Tesfamariam as well as MSU undergraduate Jamie Wadell guided the students as they looked at ways of removing glass from food, created a home-monitoring device to detect and record sleep movements, crafted a more-stable hoist system for helicopter rescue, designed a device to train medical students to detect anomalies in the spinal cord, and developed a camera that helps early-stage Alzheimer’s patients remain independent longer.

The CU Denver undergraduates were interns in a Noyce Program funded by the National Science Foundation to attract university students to teaching. The interns partnered with experienced teachers in the Aurora Public School System to mentor the high school students.

“We studied real problems in health care,” said Tagg. “This program allows the students to be truly innovative. I see the potential for these students to bring real creativity to their studies and to solving genuine problems. They were so open to new ideas.”

The team working on the home-monitoring “smart” bed that detects how well people sleep was told by CU School of Medicine physician Allegra Melillo (a founder of the Aurora LIGHTS program) that their design could really help her take care of her patients.  The students commented that with encouragement like that they were able to push their understanding of smart boards and computer coding and come up with what some day could be a practical tool for doctors.

The Innovation Academy is part of one of four academic and career pathways within the Aurora Public Schools.They include S.T.E.M, arts and communications, business and health sciences. Faculty at the University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus have supported the Aurora LIGHTS Program for the past six years.

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