Thomas More will study energy, biomedical field

March 10, 2009

Imagine discovering a cure for a disease or creating a wind turbine, generating energy for a campus as part of a high school class project.

That could soon be a reality for some St. Thomas More High School students.

Beginning next school year, the Catholic high school at 2601 E. Morgan Ave., St. Francis, will become the third high school in Wisconsin to offer an introductory biomedical course through Project Lead the Way, a hands-on, project-based curriculum, preparing students for the medical field, school President Robert Pauly said.

"We want to read where the world is going, and we want to be the leaders in preparing our young people to satisfy the future marketplace," Pauly said.

Three other biomedical courses will be offered through PLTW for the 2010-11 school year.

College-level courses

The curriculum will encompass a variety of medical and health care disciplines such as biochemistry, biomedical engineering, dentistry, forensics, microbiology, immunology, pharmacology, physiology and radiological sciences, he said.

Principal Mark Joerres said the most exciting class in the biomedical curriculum is the senior course, Science Research, which gives students an opportunity to make disease-curing, surgical and therapeutic recommendations, depending on the scenario.

Joerres said that type of coursework is taught at the higher levels of undergraduate college studies and graduate work.

"So this is pushing the envelope," he said. "Our kids could conceivably discover a cure for something or some new medical device that could be patented."

So far, 36 students are signed up to take the biomedical course, but faculty is projecting enrollment to jump to 48, Joerres said.

Energy exploration

Staff members are also looking into green possibilities with private corporations, fueling opportunities for students to create solar panels on the school's roof, a wind turbine on the campus and employing other sources of geothermal energy, Pauly said. The program would be integrated into the school's engineering department, which is also through PLTW.

Johnson Controls Inc. offers a program that will help STMHS finance green and alternative energy technology, and there are grants available through We Energies and Focus on Energy for pursuing projects involving alternative energy, Pauly said.

The program would allow students to be "part of the revolution of alternative energy," he said.

School officials are looking into the feasibility of repaying Johnson Controls for financial assistance in alternative energy projects with funds saved through the use of such things as solar panels and a wind turbine.

Johnson Controls staff has just completed a campuswide assessment of STMHS and will present their findings to school administrators in upcoming weeks.

Joerres said the school's biomedical courses, green efforts and engineering courses will allow students to become actively engaged in finding solutions rather than being a "passive participant and learning about it."

Green power

Eventually, STMHS hopes to become the "greenest" school in the state," Pauly said.

"We'd like to be a national model," he said. "And we're not going to stop."

While a timetable is unknown on when green initiatives will be undertaken, Pauly said officials plan to talk to neighbors and inform the public before anything is finalized.

Meanwhile, STMHS boasts being the only wireless laptop high school in metropolitan Milwaukee.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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