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High-tech table lets students learn to virtually dissect real human bodies

FLEMINGTON, N.J. — Students inside a classroom at Hunterdon County Vocational School District’s Biomedical Academy are standing over a real patient. MRI imagery displays the person laying on the table, ready to be dissected.

The Anatomage table lets students tap the screen like an iPad to get a 180-degree view of the body. They can also pull back every layer of tissue, muscle and bone.

"It makes it so much easier to visualize how everything works and how it works together instead of seeing everything separately,” sophomore Elizabeth Caso said.

Students say they like the interactive tech way better than paging through a book.

"It’s not only more fun, it's also more useful," student Constantine Kapetanakis said. "I can see different perspectives of it, see how it actually is in relation to the body."

The people on the table agreed to take MRI images of their bodies before they died.

One man was on death row. One woman had a tumor and an enlarged spleen.

Much like a doctor, students are searching for that woman’s tumor in real-time.

"A lot of the experiments they’re doing now are experiments I didn’t do until I was in graduate school,” teacher Donna Badgewell said. “And it’s a lot of fun, actually. I feel like students learn much better if they have some sort of a hands-on experience with whatever you’re teaching them. It doesn’t matter what the subject is."

There aren’t many tables like this in classrooms across the country. They are available in colleges and medical schools, but access at a high school is rare. The Biomedical Academy competed for a New Jersey Department of Education grant to pay for it. It cost $80,000.

But the high price tag pales when you hear how this high-tech lesson could change the course of a student’s study.

"I wanted to be an audiologist. But then I took a look at the brain and now I’m kind of looking at neurology a bit more,” Kapetanakis said.