RIO HONDO – Three teachers from Rio Hondo Independent School District are in gear to promote biomedical engineering and other STEM initiatives to students due in part to a Texas A&M University summer program.

Refugio Lira of Rio Hondo Middle School, Connie Saenz of Rio Hondo High School and Monica Saldivar of Rio Hondo Elementary School participated in the PATHS-UP Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program sponsored by TAMU Department of Engineering June 13-July 1.

The RHISD teachers spent nearly three weeks at the College Station campus to pursue discovery in health technologies and engineering. They attended the research labs of professors and graduate students and then shared their experiences with their statewide peers to develop lesson plans that integrate more science, technology, engineering and math.

 For their PATHS-UP RET discovery, Lira, Saenz and Saldivar observed professors and graduate students developing a wearable, medical-grade device to monitor and warn patients of potential heart attacks. This exposure particularly inspired Lira, a seventh-grade science teacher.

 “Part of my job is to teach biology, and the biomedical engineering project I shadowed is going to help me incorporate more STEM concepts into my curriculum,” Lira said.

 This year, Lira intends to give his science students an assignment using circuit boards and different sensors to create a device that monitors blood pressure and beats per minute. The students will find an application in which the device can be used to screen for pre-existing medical conditions and improve overall health.

 “I want to help our students think creatively and apply their critical thinking skills,” he said. “So much of STEM education is learning how to apply what you learn to solve real-world problems.”

 Lira, Saenz and Saldivar will all coordinate the districtwide Robotics and Science Fair for RHISD this year.

 “They’re going to serve as STEM ambassadors to help our teachers incorporate STEM principles in their lessons and introduce more STEM occupations to our students,” said Raul Trevino, RHISD interim superintendent. “We expect more of our teachers to participate in the PATHS-UP RET summer program.”

Note: Digital image attached. (Left to ­­­­­right) Refugio Lira, Monica Saldivar and Connie Saenz