What they Did On their Summer Vacation: The Karabots Junior Fellows

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows and Penn SUMR Scholars Programs pose on the marble staircase at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Image courtesy of the Penn SUMR Scholars Program

A few weeks ago, the Center for Education welcomed the newest cohort of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program, who took part in an intensive two weeks of medical and STEM education. This year’s theme was Anatomy & Armor, focusing on the natural and artificial ways humans and animals protect themselves from trauma, disease, and predators. During ten content-packed days, they met with guest speakers, took part in hands-on activities, and traveled to interesting locations around the city. Along the way they also learned about subjects in anatomy, general health and wellness, and even a little bit about professionalism and preparing for their future careers.

Week One:

Our program began with our new students getting to know both each other and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. We welcomed twenty-two students in total, representing a wide variety of backgrounds, neighborhoods, and schools. In a short amount of time, they got to know each other and learned how to work together, taking part in a variety of team-building activities. In keeping with our established history of game-based learning, among their activities was a play session of Steel Plate Games’ Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a cooperative computer game that relies heavily on teams learning how to communicate with each other to achieve a common goal: defusing a virtual bomb. In addition to better getting to know each other, they received an introduction to our organization, complete with a tour of the Mütter Museum.

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program play the cooperative computer game "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes"

On their second day, the Junior Fellows received an immersive experience in the world of physical therapy, examining trauma and recovery. The theme of the day was a scenario in which a patient was injured in a car accident; over the course of their sessions, the students met with health care professionals and took part in activities related to emergency care and rehabilitation. They met with a sophisticated dummy designed to simulate real-life medical conditions, learned how to measure a patient’s vital signs, and practiced using assistive equipment such as wheelchairs and crutches.

Students in the KArabots Junior Fellows Program monitor each other's blood pressure at Drexel University's Physical Therapy Lab

Along the way they took part in lessons related to skin and the human skeleton. Healthcare professionals introduced them to careers in biomedical engineering, sports medicine, neurology, and anesthesiology. They also learned about modern and historic armors. They traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to explore their armory and learn about the design choices that went into medieval armor. A representative from Temple University’s Red Diamond Battalion visited the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to show them modern military protective gear. A former student in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program demonstrated modern athletic equipment.

Week Two:

Their second week began with a day of activities and speakers related to the anatomy of animals. Speakers addressed topics related to comparative anatomy and veterinary medicine. Along the way, the students got to meet live animals, including a snake and a tortoise. The day concluded with a trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, where our Karabots Junior Fellows broke into teams and took part in a photo scavenger hunt designed to teach them about natural forms of armor as well as introduce them to the diverse programming the Academy has to offer (fun fact: College of Physicians of Philadelphia Fellow Joseph Leidy served as both the Librarian and Chief Curator for the Academy and was influential in the field of paleontology).

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program pose in front of a dinosaur display at the Academy of Natural Sciences

Several activities this week addressed ways they can help protect and maintain their “armor.” Following a morning yoga session, the students met with experts in nutrition and personal fitness, learning healthy eating habits as well as a bit about self defense. They also learned about the dangers of substance abuse. This led into a series of activities related to first aid, where they learned how to set a splint and what to do in case someone they know experiences a drug or alcohol overdose. They also learned about the benefits of aerobic exercise, taught in part through a session of the rhythm-based video game series Dance Dance Revolution.

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program take part in a yoga session.

Our students also cultivated their research, public speaking, and networking skills. During their first week, the Karabots Junior Fellows divided into groups and selected a specimen from the Mütter Museum. Through the course of the two weeks, they researched their specimen in preparation to deliver small tours to visiting students from the University of Pennsylvania’s SUMR (Summer Undergraduate Research) Program. The SUMR scholars are undergraduate students from underrepresented communities who come to Penn for the summer to get involved in healthcare research projects. Both they and the Karabots students had the opportunity to share their knowledge and get to know each other over museum tours and pizza. Our students also took part in sessions on establishing effective professional connections, building a successful resume, and professional email and social media use.

Wayne Cooper, one of the Karabots Junior Fellows poses with a sample of various vertebrate hearts during a sheep heart dissection

Despite being so full of activities, the week flew by quickly. By the end of the two week session, our students had a better understanding of some of the exciting healthcare careers available to them. We are eager to share more opportunities with them when they return in the fall.