BioSTEM lab provides Robertson County students with industry-level experience



ROBERTSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – As biotech companies continue to move to the Nashville area, Educators in Robertson County are preparing students for future opportunities with their own bioSTEM lab.

Robertson County School officials told News 2’s Alex Corradetti they’re one of two Middle Tennessee districts that offer BioSTEM training with a full laboratory.

News 2 spoke with Erica Hoover, a Biology teacher at White House Heritage High School, about the program. Hoover teaches both bioSTEM one and two. She said while biology gives students a lot of the basics, these courses provide opportunities to work with actual DNA.

Students can analyze the DNA and provide forensic applications of it. As biotech continues to become a growing industry in Middle Tennessee, some students said opportunities like this have paved the path for their future.

“We have a lot of medical classes. So, I am a certified clinical medical assistant and we can also become EKG technicians. So, we just have a lot of like, STEM opportunities here. And so that kind of piqued my interest,” said Daniel Austin, senior at White House Heritage High School.

Hoover said these courses will also help students outside of the field.

“Even if they’re not going into a biotechnology career, it makes it more relevant to them, because it’s something that they are actually seeing and working with. Rather than just reading or taking a test about,” explained Hoover.

Hoover told News 2 the idea for the classes came from their principal, Dr. Kim Hass, who heard of a similar program at another school while at a conference. Hoover said this was only possible due to a large investment from their county.

“They believed in the program and thought it was something that would be great for students. This equipment is not cheap. So, they really invested in our students and in our school and had a lot of confidence in me that I could implement the program. It’s it’s been a lot of fun,” said Hoover.

Students said they appreciate the hands-on experience for things they may have normally just read in a book.

“The fact that we’re able to work with them and test within, like in a real-life setting and how they’ll be applied within a career setting is really cool, because I just had never known about what they were and how they worked in general,” explained Senior Faith Redding.

Hoover said they’ve been able to focus some of their efforts on the importance of science during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We did a mockup of a COVID-19 test. And then we’ve talked about antibody testing and how those would look in the lab. We’ve conducted some antibody tests here in our lab, and then we’ve talked about how the mRNA vaccine works,” said Hoover.

Some students said this program is unique.

“I came from a different school in California and it was a really big school. We had nothing like this and my school was like three times the size. So, it’s really nice to have just moved here and gotten to have this opportunity to be in this class when I didn’t even know it was possible to have a class like this in high school,” explained Senior Samantha Burk.

Currently, the new program is a two-year commitment and requires students to successfully complete advanced biology and advanced chemistry prior to entry. 

Hoover told News 2 she hopes these bioSTEM opportunities can lead to internships for high school students in the workplace. The students hope other schools in the area take notice of the program and implement it themselves.

To learn more about the program, click here.

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