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BACON: Best All-Around Club of Nerds, Medical Technology Subgroup

Members of FTC, a BACON robotics subgroup, at last year’s competition

What We’re Making…

Disadvantaged high school students interested in medicine and medical engineering have few opportunities available to them. Unlike other STEM fields, medical engineering requires specialized equipment which is unlikely to be found in a local high school or maker space, and is prohibitively expensive for students to purchase independently. The only way to gain experience is through competitive programs offered by colleges and companies capable of providing the necessary resources. However, these programs often mandate prior experience; prior experience is unattainable for students who are unable to purchase the aforementioned equipment. We wish to remedy that. By both providing local high school students with the resources and opportunity to explore medical engineering, and teaching them the corresponding research and documentation skills, we hope to allow all students–regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or financial situation–to engage in the sorts of research opportunities generally unavailable until the college or even graduate level, and to open doors for students that have been systemically closed to those without financial means. 

The Application of OpenBCI Tools…

We have the supplemental materials, but the OpenBCI tools would allow us unprecedented access to the projects and experiments we wish to explore and the educational value we wish to provide. We plan to utilize OpenBCI materials to teach these subjects through hands-on experimentation, collaboration, and the development of original projects in order to educate otherwise under-resourced students about all aspects of the biomedical engineering field. 

Our Mascot!

Why is this important?

We aim to provide both access and incentive to all students, regardless of gender identity, race, or socioeconomic status, to learn about and engage in the fields of neuroscience and medical technology. We draw inspiration from OpenBCI, and the open source movement as a whole. We believe that the opportunity to learn, create, and innovate should never be locked behind an economic barrier. Currently, the formal medical opportunities available to city high schoolers, as well as the technology needed to explore the concepts independently, are only available to those with significant financial means. Students unable to afford the prerequisite technology or expensive programs find themselves unable to begin exploration of the subject, which unfortunately disqualifies many and stunts diversity in the field. Even without such a financial barrier, gaining access to opportunities that further this genre of education in high school is near impossible without prior experience. Prior experience is near impossible without prior experience of its own, so on and so forth. Unlike the open source software available to amateur programmers or the makerspaces available to aspiring engineers, there are disturbingly few inexpensive ways for high school students to pursue passions in medical engineering. This is the central problem we hope to address. By providing a free after-school environment for students to learn, grow, and develop their passions, we hope to break down these antiquated and inequitable barriers and equip the next generation of medical innovators with the resources necessary to begin changing the world. 

Who’s Involved…

Kaymin Hester is a senior at Charlottesville High School. She has participated in the Charlottesville Engineering curriculum since her seventh grade year and has participated in the CHS STEM club during both her freshman and junior years. Her first year at CHS, she was part of the robotics subgroup. In her junior year, she participated in the Media group to better familiarize herself with the inner workings of the program so she could begin work on this recent project, a medical and biological technology subgroup. She also participated in the Columbia Academic Immersion program, taking a ten week class on the Neuroscience of Psychiatric Disorders, which allowed her to explore neuroscience and its implications on the physical brain and body. 

Luke Roberts is a senior at Charlottesville High School. He is a self-taught programmer who has participated in and mentored for the SPARK Hackathon, as well as completing a paid internship at the web development firm Braid. Luke was part of the CHS Engineering program for his two of his years at CHS. He participated in the CHS STEM club his freshman year as a member of the school’s Zero Robotics team, which placed third internationally. He also led the ZR subgroup before moving to join the Medical Technology team. Luke is also a freelance artist, and is interested in the intersection of art and technology, and the common ground they both find in the context of the human mind.

Dr. Matthew Shields is the engineering and AP Physics C instructor at Charlottesville High School. He has a Master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia, alongside a PhD in curriculum and instruction from UVA as well. He was previously employed as an engineer at a large defense contractor and later, a multimedia developer at the Darden School of Business before becoming the engineering and physics teachers at CHS. Dr. Shields started our school’s STEM club, the Best All-around Club of Nerds, and designed our school’s STEM lab. He created the Charlottesville City Schools STEM program as well, which has grown to encompass grades 5-12, with around 500 students participating each year. You can contact Dr. Shields at [email protected]

Want to learn more?

Our STEM club, the CHS Best All-around Club of Nerds or “BACON”, has its own website detailing the accomplishments of all of its subgroups. Any significant findings or endeavors will be recorded there. 



I think we could do this at our middle school. The earlier we start STEM, the easier for students to comprehend the equipment later in HS, and college.

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