Dr. Steven Barlow
Electron Microscope Facility
The scanning electron microscope enables students to see the surface details of objects at magnifications from 50x to 10,000x, a range much larger than that of a light microscope. However, the high cost of these microscopes ($50,000-$500,000) generally precludes access by elementary and high school students, since most K-12 schools cannot afford to own and run such an instrument. Furthermore, the instruments are often located in very small laboratory rooms, limiting severely the size of classes that can visit the laboratory site.
Cable TV or Internet connections make it
possible to bring live images from the SDSU scanning electron microscope directly into the
classroom, thereby greatly enlarging the pool of students for whom
access to the instrument was previously not feasible or cost
effective. Students, working with lesson plans designed in
conjunction with their schoolteachers, would send their own samples
to the Electron Microscope Facility. At a predetermined time, the
samples would be loaded into the microscope, and live images would be
sent by two way interactive link to the remote classroom. For
example, students would say, "Let's look at sample 7, salt and
pepper, and compare their shape and structure". On screen, the salt
and pepper would appear. In this way, students would feel they were
operating the microscope and examining their own samples. The image
samples appear on the remote computer screen just as they would on
the microscope. The sample magnification, focus etc. would be done at
the direction of the K-12 students via audio link to the EM
Facility. A fixed camera in the room can broadcast an image of the
Facility operator so that students could interact with a scientist
when they weren't viewing samples on the SEM. The session can be
videotaped for future viewing, and high resolution images can be
stored on our computer for subsequent downloading by students. The EM
Facility can advise the remote classroom students where to go to seek
answers to their questions, thereby adding another dimension to the
teaching possibilities this remote feed would provide.
In summary, there are several benefits to be
gained from this remote access:
1.) Students would be able to view their own
samples on the scanning electron microscope. This would greatly
increase the availability of the microscope to K-12 students.
2.) Teacher education programs can
use this live linkage as part of their curriculum for training future
3.) Undergraduates here at State who have
completed the SEM class and laboratory (Biology 555,556) can gain
additional proficiency running the electron microscope for the remote
4.) These SDSU undergraduates will be exposed
to the joys, excitement and occasional frustrations of teaching.
Participating in this outreach program will give undergraduate
students considering a career in teaching some actual experience
interacting with K-12 students.
5.) Several students here at State have started
working on research projects as a result of seeing images on the
scanning electron microscope. This microscope and its images
demonstrates to students that science doesn't have to be dull, or
limited to pages in a textbook.
6.) K-12 students who see undergraduates
running the scanning electron microscope will learn by example that
the SEM is not an intimidating high technology instrument whose use
is limited to highly trained individuals. I have trained high school
students to use the electron microscope and they were thrilled! These
excited students bring their friends and I get more students
interested in pursuing projects that involve these tools.