Published: Feb. 4, 2021 By

A swallowable, remote-controlled robot that roams around inside a person’s intestines, using tools to perform procedures and sending back a live video stream of this funky pink environment? Now that’s some seriously cool science. 

It’s hard to imagine a teenager who could resist exploring mechanical engineering after learning about Endoculus, the small device developed by CU Boulder Professor Mark Rentschler and student researchers in his lab that can navigate the human gastrointestinal system with ease and may someday help doctors care for their patients.

Mark Rentschler in lab

In fact, educators are hoping that middle and high school students are so intrigued by Rentschler and his sci-fi-esque robot that they pursue further study and maybe even a career in science, technology, engineering, math or medicine.

A comprehensive, teen-friendly article, activity sheet and PowerPoint presentation about Rentschler’s research are now available, free of charge, to teachers all over the world thanks to a partnership with Futurum, a United Kingdom-based organization that aims to help develop the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, researchers, doctors and beyond. 

Download the Futurum lesson plans

Futurum helped translate Rentschler’s complex research into easy-to-digest (no pun intended) content that teachers can incorporate into their lesson plans and share with their students.

“Mark is a brilliant example of someone using his passion and knowledge to improve people’s lives,” said Brett Langenberg, Futurum’s founder. “His research is innovative — and the robotic element is cool — and has a real-life application that many young people will find inspiring. Mark’s work shows what can be achieved when you have aspirations, which is something we want all young people to have.”

The colorful and engaging online Futurum package also includes a question-and-answer interview with Rentschler, a CU engineering professor and Sylvia Norviel Cancer Research faculty fellow, about his path to becoming a mechanical engineer, the ins and outs of the field itself and some of Rentschler’s advice for young people. 

Rentschler said he enjoyed the opportunity to think about his research through the eyes of a young person and reflect on his personal journey to becoming a scientist — from the tiny town of Atkinson, Nebraska, to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, eventually, to CU Boulder, with many other influential stops along the way. 

He’s also glad that his research can serve as a real-world example of the types of fun, creative and potentially helpful projects students can work on if they pursue a career in STEM.

“One of our goals as faculty is to make a broad impact with our research, not only with the students that we’re directly training but also bringing the research to classrooms here at the university and even wider dissemination,” Rentschler said. “It’s a creative challenge to share your research with the broadest community possible, but this experience has demonstrated to me how you can distill your research into a tangible form for a younger audience.”