This image shows a black stuffed cat with a missing front limb. The cat has a DIY prosthetic device. A worksheet next to the cat is titled "Animal Prosthesis: STEM Challenge." The title reads "Biomedical Engineering."

Biomedical Engineering STEM Activity with Animal Prosthetics for Middle School

Exposing students to new career paths and showing them real-world applications is an important part of STEM class! Many students are surprised to learn that some engineers work with animals. In this biomedical engineering STEM activity, students are introduced to three animals, Bob the alligator, Bruce the parrot, and Snoopy the cat. Each potential client is missing an appendage that affects their survivability. Students are tasked with designing a prosthetic device that will improve one client’s quality of life.

This image shows 3 stuffed animals missing various appendages. The alligator is missing a tail, the parrot is missing it's upper beak, and the cat is missing it's front limb.

The project follows the engineering design process to guide students from learning about the problem to creating an effective solution. First, students will identify the problem and the project criteria and constraints. Then they’ll research their three possible clients and identify which client they most want to help. Next, students will learn about the field of biomedical engineering and prosthetic devices. Then students will use simple materials to create a prosthetic device that will help improve their client’s quality of life. Throughout this process, students will use the middle school engineering practices outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards.

What’s included in the biomedical engineering STEM activity?

This images shows a worksheet with the title "Animal Prosthesis STEM Challenge" and a computer with a document titled "Define the Problem." Both documents are describing a biomedical engineering STEM activity where students design, build, and test a prosthetic device for an animal client.

This animal prosthetics STEM challenge includes:

  • Printable PDF, Google, and Easel versions of the student worksheets
  • Detailed teacher notes that include suggestions for differentiation and virtual learning
  • Flexible building materials, so you can use what you have on hand
  • A slideshow to assist with lesson facilitation
  • A rubric for easy grading
  • End-of-project celebration certificates

What materials do you need?

The materials for this project are flexible! Here are some suggestions, but you can truly use whatever building supplies you have on hand.

  • Printed or digital copies of the student worksheets to guide the design process
  • Building materials, such as cardboard, wooden craft sticks, dowel rods, straws, pipe cleaners, etc.
  • Stuffed animals to use as models for the prosthetic devices (optional)

How can you use the biomedical engineering STEM challenge in your classroom?

This animal prosthetics project is highly engaging for students and is perfect for giving yourself a bit of a break when you are feeling burnt out or feeling frustrated with challenging student behaviors. For example, the project is perfect for keeping students engaged before a school holiday. You can also use the project to keep students on task when you have unusual schedules or low attendance due to field trips, testing, assemblies, or other interruptions. 

The biomedical engineering activity can also be used to introduce students to real-world STEM careers. You could further extend student learning by watching “Dolphin Tale,” which is based on the true story of a biomedical engineer and rescue aquarium staff who work together to create a prosthetic tail for a dolphin.

This project can also help you meet Next Generation Science Standards and engineering practices, such as MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, and MS-ETS1-4. It will help develop your students’ problem-solving skills and provide practice with the engineering design process. Students will also develop their communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.


This image is titled "Prosthesis STEM Design Challenge." It shows a stuffed cat with a DIY prosthetic device in place of its front limb and a worksheet titled "Animal Prosthesis STEM Challenge."

Grab this biomedical engineering STEM activity today, so you can take a break from planning while knowing your students will still be learning and having fun!

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