Ultrasound Upgrade Boosts Student Learning

A recent upgrade to ultrasound technology used in animal science teaching at Iowa State University puts advanced imaging in the palm of students’ hands.

“Upgrading to this new ultrasound device is like going from a flip phone to an iPhone,” says Jessie Juarez (’10 animal science and dairy science, MS ’12, DVM ’14), a lecturer in animal science anatomy and physiology.

The ultrasound unit—an Ibex EVO—is a collaborative purchase involving colleagues from animal science with research, teaching and extension appointments.

Curt Youngs, professor of animal science, says the new unit will not only add value to animal reproductive physiology courses but also improve hands-on learning in beef science, dairy science and small ruminant courses.

“We’ve used ultrasound technology
 for decades for teaching. It uses sound waves, not harmful radiation, and is a safe and effective tool allowing students to see inside an animal’s body without any kind of surgery,” Youngs says.

Features of the new ultrasound machine make it easier to use and share images for teaching, according to Juarez and Youngs.

“The unit’s battery pack makes the machine portable. It can capture thousands of images and video and transfer the images wirelessly to student devices. Students can view the images in real time on their personal tablets or smartphones,” says Youngs.

Students can review archived images on Iowa State’s online learning program. The ultrasound system also includes a voice tag feature allowing instructors to record a short voice message to playback when the image is viewed.

“By reviewing these images students are exposed to technology commonly used in industry,” Juarez says. “They can learn the economic value of pregnancy testing and finding out if an animal needs to be rebred. They can focus on the health and wellbeing of pregnant animals.”

Youngs says the technology will be especially useful for research underway 
at the Iowa State University dairy farm. The project compares different injection sites and evaluates the efficacy of two new reproductive hormones recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for synchronization of ovulation.

“This research has been student-driven from day one. Shelby Patten (’16 dairy science) was the impetus for this project. She launched the research as a one- semester independent study research project, and it grew into a longer trial involving more undergraduate and graduate students,” says Youngs.

Cassie Krebill, a junior in dairy science involved with the research, says the technology is enhancing her learning and problem-solving skills.

“The equipment allows me to compare images and make conclusions and observations ranging from cysts, twins and many other possibilities,” Krebill says. “It’s rewarding because I get to use results from the ultrasound monitor and apply classroom knowledge to reach the end goal of a healthy pregnancy.”