Essays on Science and SocietySPORE* Series Winner

Facilitating Scientific Investigations and Training Data Scientists

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Science  29 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6042, pp. 534-535
DOI: 10.1126/science.1196981


On a Monday morning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 29 sixth-grade students and their teacher conducted scientific investigations on insect adaptations by remotely controlling an environmental scanning electron microscope from their classroom. Before the session, these students gathered and mailed insect specimens to the Beckman Institute of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where the electron microscope is physically located. Like any principal investigator, their teacher submitted a formal proposal to request access to the microscope for a classroom project (1). The proposal was to participate in the Beckman Institute's Bugscope,, a free educational technology outreach project, which enables kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) and undergraduate students and teachers to remotely access and control the microscope in real time from their classroom computers. For the teacher, the educational benefits to her students included the ability to see insect anatomy details too minute for their classroom microscopes; the development of the skills necessary to acquire their own images; and, most important, the opportunity to chat with scientists and ask them questions about insects, electron microscopy, and science careers.