JEOL USA Press Releases

JEOL USA Press Releases


JEOL USA Press Releases

Shaping the Scientists of Tomorrow

“Shaping the technology of tomorrow” is the maxim of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas San Antonio, but shaping the scientists and engineers of the future is the mission of the college’s interactive Technology Experience Center (iTEC).

A unique learning center that integrates technology with fun to captivate the interest of young children, iTEC is holding a series of open houses this fall for students ranging from kindergarten to high school age. For most, if not all, attending the open house at iTEC gave them their first encounter with an electron microscope, and the opportunity to operate it and look at things that interested them.

“The kids have brought in samples ranging from paper soaked in sugar water to garnets personally mined by the student to snake skin and tarantula silk from one of the students’ own pets!” Pam Colby, iTEC Program Manager, reports. The response to the open house series has been overwhelming. The six-hour event is well-orchestrated to involve the students, teachers, and parents in hands-on learning about a variety of scientific topics ranging from robotics to geology, and the electron microscope is a popular part of the tour.

UTSA recently installed a JEOL “CarryScope” portable SEM that is not only easy to operate, but is easy to relocate from one lab to another, as needed, which is exactly what iTEC will do when it moves from the College of Engineering space to new, dedicated facility in February ‘09. Its size and accessibility made it highly appealing for the children, who Pam Colby guided as they placed their samples on the stage and operated the SEM themselves. They even had instructions in using EDS for further analysis, and some used the metrology feature of the SEM to make measurements.

“Awesome!” was the response from most of the students. “I think it’s great because it’s one thing to read it in a book and hear other people talk about it, but it’s something entirely different to see it with your own eyes, touch it and get a better understanding,” said a 17-year-old high school student.

The iTEC program is funded by AT&T. By helping to educate students in San Antonio and beyond, and by providing specific activities and tutorials for teachers’ and home school lesson plans, the company will help develop future scientists and engineers in the area. Colby anticipates that nearly 400 students will have attended the four open houses that conclude at the end of October. The program has drawn students from as far as 200 miles away.

Colby joined the staff in February 2008 after retiring from the Navy, where she was a curriculum developer, and says that key to this program is the technical support of UTSA professors and department heads, including the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Geological Sciences, and Biomedical Engineering. Colby is also a student herself, in the Biomedical PhD. Program at UTSA, but much of her time is spent developing the curriculum for the iTEC program.

“All of our projects are accessible through the web,” she says, and a visit to the center is just a taste of what will continue to be offered to teachers, students, and parents who are home schooling their children. But it’s the hands on experience at the iTEC events that helps children learn from doing. “They walk away with the experience of having actually done something – it’s not vapor to them. These are kids that normally would not be interested in science.”

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