Remote Instrumentation Resources for K20 Schools

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

By Stephanie Stenberg, Director, Internet2 Community Anchor Program

Utilizing advanced networking, students can conduct original research using the same instruments as the nation’s premier scientists. These remote instruments let your students control a microscope or telescope hundreds of miles away to view everything from comets to mosquitos to microchips.

CAP remote instrumentation resources.

Internet2’s Community Anchor Program is dedicated to helping K20 schools further their educational mission using advanced networking. One way we support schools is by compiling resources schools can use to make the most of their connection.

Below is a list of remote instrumentation resources for connected classrooms. If you know of additional resources to include, please email us at contactcap@internet2.edu.

Bugscope (scanning electron microscope), from the Beckman Institute’s Imaging Technology Group at the University of Illinois. The Bugscope project provides free interactive access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) so that students anywhere in the world can explore the microscopic world of insects. This educational outreach program from the Beckman Institute’s Imaging Technology Group at the University of Illinois supports K-16 classrooms worldwide. Bugscope allows teachers everywhere to provide students with the opportunity to become microscopists themselves — the kids propose experiments, explore insect specimens at high-magnification, and discuss what they see with our scientists. This is a free service.

International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) (remote telescopes), from the Las Cumbres telescope network (primarily for middle school students). IASC uses data from Pan-STARRS (University of Hawaii) and the Catalina Sky Survey (University of Arizona) that is distributed to the participating schools. The students search through the data to discover and measure original Main Belt asteroid discoveries. Another part of the IASC program includes access to the 0.4-m telescope network of the Las Cumbres Observatory. Students can use these telescopes remotely to image deep sky objects, asteroids, and comets. This is a free service.

iTelescope.net (multiple remote telescopes). iTelescope has 20 publicly accessible telescopes across 4 observatories, located in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, that your students can fully control over the Internet. There is a fee associated with this service.

Labsland.com (multiple remote instruments). LabsLand connects schools and universities with real laboratories available somewhere else on the Internet. A real laboratory can be a small arduino-powered robot in Spain, a kinematics setup in Brazil, or a radioactivity testing lab in Australia. They are real laboratories, not simulations: the laboratories are physically there, and students from these schools and universities access them. There is a fee associated with this service.

North Dakota State University Electron Microscopy Center (scanning electron microscope). Hands-on use of the NDSU Electron Microscopy Center’s JEOL JSM-6490LV SEM provides a unique view of objects magnified up to 20,000 times or more. Students actually run the microscope themselves over the internet using just a PC and mouse, after installation of simple free software. Choose specific samples that fit your curriculum, or investigate interesting demonstration specimens. Scientists Scott Payne or Jayma Moore will be happy to answer questions and facilitate your virtual microscopy session. Contact them at 701-231-8234 or see https://www.ndsu.edu/em_lab/. This is a free service.

Skynet Junior Scholars (multiple remote telescopes). Students can use the Panchromatic Robotic Optical Monitoring and Polarimetry Telescopes (PROMPT), the Yerkes 41-inch telescope (the largest optical telescope on Skynet), the 20 Meter Radio Telescope, and new telescopes in Australia among others. This is a free service.

Slooh (multiple remote telescopes) (for grades 4-8). Slooh teaches 4th to 8th grade students how to explore space via a network of online telescopes, launching in the fall, with funding support from the National Science Foundation. Slooh makes offering astronomy engaging and affordable for schools without the requisite equipment or expertise on staff. We provide direct access to astronomy educators and real-time viewing and control of robotic telescopes, including seven telescopes situated at one of the world’s top observatory sites. There is a fee associated with this service.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (scanning electron microscope and other instruments). The Materials Science and Engineering Center offers a variety of programs and opportunities for K-12 students to learn about Materials Engineering and Nanotechnology. Each year dozens of presentations are given to school classes and after-school programs. These presentations are typically from 30-45 minutes in length and can be tailored to the age of the students, and are meant to be entertaining as well as educational. The Materials Science and Engineering Center also can provide access to powerful instrumentation for schools to use as part of their curricula. For example, the Scanning Electron Microscope is remotely operable, so the instrument can be used during a class anywhere that has internet access. Videoconferencing with a scientist, students can also learn about X-ray Fluorescence, X-ray Diffractions, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, and Confocal Microscopy. This is a free service.

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