Barrington students rave about new 3D technology in anatomy class
Students at Barrington High School have a new, fancy tool to study anatomy and physiology: a high-tech "virtual cadaver" that allows for an up-close, in-depth view of the human body.
The Anatomage Table is similar to an operating table, but with a life-size touch screen with 3D images of the body -- skeleton, musculature, organs, blood vessels, tissue and everything else -- that can be examined and dissected in all sorts of interactive ways.
Teachers and students gave it rave reviews.
"Students have the ability to analyze the anatomy and physiology at whatever level they want," AP biology teacher Laura Turngren said. "They can pick and choose what to look at -- what systems, what organs, what vessels, what ligaments ... down to the nitty-gritty detail. You can see every angle, every side."
Junior Ingrid Riepe called it "a super cool experience."
"This is a great tool to have in the classroom because it gives you a better perspective of a 3D model, as well as allowing a student to focus on a particular part of the system or organ, which I don't think is something a paper model is as effective with," she said. "Being able to be more hands-on in the classroom is always great."
The overall tab came to about $100,000 -- with about $70,000 spent on the actual Anatomage Table and the rest on classroom modifications to make room for it -- funded by the Barrington 220 Educational Foundation. The money was raised during a golf outing in June 2019, followed by targeted fundraising among the medical community, said foundation executive director Mary Dale.
"We are grateful to all of our donors who made this possible," she said. "We hope that this table will spark the learning and creativity for medicine and health."
District administrators work with the foundation on a list of priorities for new projects they hope can get funded. Barrington High Principal Steve McWilliams said the school had been studying the possibility of getting the Anatomage Table for a couple of years, including having staff members view models at educational conferences and a local university.
More than 250 high schools and more than 500 universities across country utilize an Anatomage Table, according to a company representative. Locally, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 has one, McWilliams said.
"We tried smaller examples before, with some virtual gear to try to mimic that," he said, "but it just didn't have the same level of sophistication and detail that Anatomage has."
The Anatomage Table also comes with a virtual library of individual case studies showing abnormalities like hernias, cancers and much more. The school owns the Table 7 model and has a contract with Anatomage for regular updates to the software and operating system.
"They (students) can use it for assessment, or they can use it just for instruction or exploration," Turngren said. "It's very versatile in how a teacher might choose to use it."
Barrington High students typically get a chance to view cadavers during a yearly field trip to the human anatomy lab at Rush University in Chicago -- but only if they are seriously interested in such studies and lucky enough to be picked in a lottery, due to limited group size.
In some ways, the Anatomage Table is even better than a cadaver, said Vanessa Fennig, who teaches honors human biology at the high school.
"You can see the heart beating, you can see the blood flowing through the vessels. You can turn on all these features. A cadaver doesn't allow you to do that. Physiologically there are no moving parts in a cadaver," she said.
"It's really an awesome piece of technology that can really transform the experience of the class for the student."
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students at Barrington High have had little chance to use the Anatomage Table so far this year. Once school resumes normally, however, the table will be available for widespread use, including possibly for classes like introduction to health care and student clubs like the Future Healthcare Professionals of America, she said.
Honor human biology student Nick Bordenet, 17, a junior, used the table for the first time recently to dissect the heart. The table makes learning better and more fun, he said.
"I used it to just look at the different parts inside the heart, and see how they are connected and how they are intertwined," he said. "It's very realistic. I felt like I was almost doing it."