The biomedical students at Ocoee High School are celebrating are the owners of a big trophy after taking first place at Orange County Public Schools’ inaugural Biomedical Science Challenge. The competition, held Feb. 19 among five local high schools, featured Project Lead-the-Way’s biomedical science module: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m proud of my whole biomedical science team,” said Ocoee teacher Paige McLemore, who took her face-to-face medical interventions and biomedical innovations classes. “They’re great kids.”
This challenge “serves to demonstrate and model the importance of PLW's Biomedical Science program to our community and showcase the talents of OCPS students and teachers,” according to the OCPS website. “This challenge provided students the opportunity to develop the in-demand, transportable skills of problem-solving and critical thinking essential to working in today’s healthcare field.”
Students were challenged to examine the impact of potential solutions to real-world problems and discuss topics that required them to consider ethical choices. They presented them in a slideshow format.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings provided a virtual keynote to the competing students, who represented Ocoee, Olympia, Windermere, Apopka and Cypress Creek high schools.
“They had to develop and present a program to for the community, as members of the community, to deal with the COVID pandemic and to prepare the community for a future pandemic — kind of like having a hurricane plan but specifically for an infectious pandemic,” McLemore said. “They had to research what COVID is, how it affects people, how the vaccine works, how you distribute it. They pretended to be contact tracers for a couple days — and how does that work? And they took community roles — one was a healthcare worker, and one was the board member for the city council and several different roles (such as) superintendent — and they acted as if they were that community council to come up with this plan and present it.”
McLemore said this was a whole unit that fit into the classroom curriculum, which they have worked on since January.
She took three teams to the challenge, but all the students worked together to perfect their presentations, practicing in front of each other and offering suggestions for improvement.
“And they all did a great job,” McLemore said. “I’m just so proud of them.”
She said her students were knew they deserved to win but still were surprised to hear their team declared the winner.
“It was a great day,” she said. “And it was probably one of the best days of the year. They have really missed having to do any activities. This particular course has a lot of field trips and hands-on activities. … The event was very well organized. It was a really a good day — probably my best day teaching this year.”
The students were invited to share their presentation with Orange County officials.
The biomedical sciences classes are geared for students who are going into any aspect of the healthcare industry, ranging from doctors and nurses to biomedical engineers, physical therapists and genetic counselors. Although this is not a magnet program, it is supported by Career & Technical Education and Orange Technical College.
“It’s a project-based learning experience for them,” McLemore said. “They research, (and) we do a lot of hands-on experiments usually; some of this stuff is state-of-the-art stuff, (such as studying) the PCR test for COVID. They’re learning a lot of current, relevant stuff that a lot of the high schools don’t get to do.”
McLemore is in her second year of teaching at Ocoee and 22nd year in education.