An online game that lets students learn about stem cells and tissue engineering also offered them information about high school and college internship programs to further spur their interest in regenerative medicine.
Through the game, aimed mainly at seventh graders through high school seniors, students competed in daily challenges to win swag — and the chance to meet inventor Dean Kamen (virtually in this pandemic age).
“The vision is to help inform young people about all the really cool things that are happening in this space,” said Alexander Titus, the freshly minted chief strategy officer at the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute in Manchester’s Millyard.
The game helps “to inspire students as they choose their classes, their elective classes in high school and particularly majors in college,” Titus said last week.
Nearly 100 students took part in the game, which ended Friday. The content about regenerative medicine will remain online through June.
ARMI, which is working to manufacture human tissue commercially, is working on recruiting tomorrow’s workforce one cool video at a time.
“I think the timing of this couldn’t be any better,” said Julie Demers, executive director of the New Hampshire Tech Alliance. “The pandemic has limited in-person, work-based learning opportunities and interactions with industry professionals. Interactive opportunities to get students interested in and thinking about career opportunities are critical.”
Titus said a chief goal is to build a pipeline of future workers.
“It’s all tied together in attracting students while they’re young to understand the process of what to study along the way to get to college and a job when they’re done,” said Titus, who earned a Ph.D. in quantitative biomedical sciences at Dartmouth.
Titus said he expects the game to help ARMI officials learn what draws the interest of students so they can develop other programming they know will garner student interest, he said.
The ARMI challenge, called “TEMPtation,” featured profiles of businesses from more than a dozen states as well as universities and colleges interested in regenerative medicine.
“Arizona State University holds summer camps for middle and high school students that are interested in learning more about science and mathematics,” read one profile.
From Georgia Tech in Atlanta: “Georgia Tech has a Center for Career Discovery & Development, which offers internships, co-ops, and career services that give students the resources they need to support their search for employment following their graduation.”
People can learn about ARMI and regenerative medicine at armiusa.org/temptation.
Formerly employed at the U.S. Department of Defense, Titus returned to New Hampshire to join ARMI.
The mission, he said, is marrying science and manufacturing.
“Bring the science to the stage where we can automate it and market the new technologies we couldn’t make before,” said Titus, previously assistant director for biotechnology within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering.
ARMI features more than 150 partners and more than $300 million in government and private investment committed.
“If we want to be able to produce a replacement heart for people who have heart disease, what are the components that go into that?” Titus said.
He hopes ARMI can attract startups in the Manchester area, allowing for ARMI to mentor them until they are viable companies.
“The idea is for companies to move into New Hampshire and move into our ecosystem if you will,” Titus said.
“I think especially given now, where we’re seeing so many people in the cities during COVID have a hard time social distancing, I expect we’ll see some shifting of people out of the cities,” said Titus, who speculated some could settle in New Hampshire.