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What I did this summer...

How many times have you had this assignment in school. Well, the tables are turned as the teachers of the 2010 High School Teacher Fellowship share their experiences in the research labs at University of Louisville and University of Kentucky.

Their challenge:

How to take what they learn back to the classroom and excite their students about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).


Something New...

I received a great opportunity to work in Dr. Saunder’s lab for about a week. This was something new and different for me since I have never had an interest in bones.  Once I started to work in the lab my perception changed.  I fell in love.  Who would have thought learning something new would spark such interest?!  The advice I will give my students is to "never be afraid of trying something new because you may fall in love." 

Katelyn Gurley who just graduated with an engineering degree taught me a lot in the lab and guided me through everything I needed to know.   She was a great teacher that I can honestly say I can successfully run the microCT confidently without any assistance.  In this study 2-day old neonatal femurs were obtained from rats to determine the effects of growth in culture. Bones were harvested and placed in culture.  Comparisons were made between 1, 2, and 4 weeks.  The goal was to determine the long-term culture viability of bones under basic culture conditions of passive diffusion to determine useful culture life. (1)   The microCT was used to analyze these bones.  The femurs were taken from neonatal rats.  Left limbs were analyzed at 24 hr after harvest; the contralateral right limb was taken at 1, 2 or 4 wk culture.  We then compared these bones. For the short amount of time I was there I was able to use the microCT to analyze bones at week 4.  Katelyn completed weeks 1 and 2.  After the bones were analyzed we were able to run statistical measures to compare all of our data.


So how do I incorporate it in the classroom?


In a Geometry classroom, how to find volume and area of different figures is learned.  In this lab, the microCT calculated the bone and total volume of a femur.  This will be brought back to the classroom by telling students how important it is to know what volume and area are before tests are ran on any object.  Even though the scanner computed results automatically it is important for students to have the basis of these terms or students won’t understand what they truly mean when the results are printed out.


Bones from Day 27 and Day 1 were compared, by using ratios.  A simple skill as ratios is important for students to know how to compute while working in this lab.  Geometry students use ratios to compare different volumes and areas of different objects.  This determines if the object is 2 times, 3 times, etc. big as the original object.  Hence, ratios are important to know how to use, which will be explained to students through telling them about the summer research program.


For Algebra II students, in Dr. Saunders lab statistics was used to analyze the data that was measured.  A software program called GraphPad Prism did all of the calculations but if there was no basic understanding of what those meant there will be a sense of feeling lost.  So in the classroom the importance to know what is mean, standard deviation, standard error, etc. will be explained because it is important to not only know how to compute it but to have an understanding of what these terms are. An excel worksheet was also used to store data and complete a few mathematical computations. In the classroom students will be taken to a computer lab to run a few computations using Microsoft Excel.   Students will also see if one certain data value is changed how that changes the rest of the data values. 


Things To Take Back To My Students

It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of our time at U of L. I have learned many things during these three weeks. Now when my students ask me what the practical applications are for the math I am teaching them, I will be able to make a connection to optics. I am sure that seeing a real reason to use trigonometry will make it more interesting and easy to learn.


Math is the language of science and if students cannot understand math, they will never really be able to understand science. And math, without its applications in science, is a lifeless thing. Math can never be fully understood without seeing it in the context of its applications. We need to foster the natural alliance between the science classroom and the mathematics classroom.


I have been working with a free education version of OSLO, a software program to help with the configuration of lenses. I have not been able to reconfigure Dr Mendez’s lenses like I had hoped, but I plan to use OSLO in my classroom this fall to illustrate the tracing of a ray through a simple lens. Also I am excited about several apps I have found on the web that will add interest to my geometry classroom.


Busy as a bee


We have been working non-stop.  We first begin by designing our device (large-scale versions of nano- and microfluidic devices - they are simply devices that allows substances to flow through it) on Illustrator.  It is slightly complicated at first, but I am warming up to the program.  After we design the device we then pour a mold of it with PDMS.  Before we can use the device we must make a PDMS base to attach to the mold and also connect any tubing.  While all of this may sound simple, it can take a day to complete a working design on Illustrator.  It may take three days to fabricate it.  And even when the device is finished, it may not work properly so that will mean redoing parts of it (fluid, tubing, attachments, and so on) or the entire device.  We now have four devices.  We are cutting out a fifth design in a few minutes, and a sixth design is in progress on Illustrator.  These are all going simultaneously so we must be organized to keep a successful pace.


While I have also been involved in another project, this will be the focus of the poster presentation.  I will also demonstrate a few of the devices at the Thursday meeting.  I hope you are all enjoying your projects and I look forward to hearing more about them on Thursday. 



Week two

By the end of week two I found a mistake in my calculations for the flow rate of the Knudsen pump that I am working on.  I have been working on a schematic diagram of the pump on a program called canvas.  It's pretty much a drag and drop shapes to build a schematic.  I learned how to work it really quick. (nice program) 

Also I have been looking for some type of journal to possibly get my project published.  If anyone has any ideas or has already been looking into this for their project please respond to this post. 


I have also started to think about my poster project and what I need to do to complete it.  I plan on putting the Theory of the Knudsen Pump.  Pictures of my completed project.  Schematic of the pump from canvas.  Graph showing the experimental flow rate.  My calculations for the theoretical flow rate.  List of the parts used to make the pump.

I have learned alot this week.  First always check, double check, and triple check calculations.  We all make mistakes.  Don't be afraid to ask for help when you don't understand.  Something we also try to convey to our high school students.  Sometimes progress is slow so be patient.  Good things come to those who wait.  These our lessons I already teach my students but will definitely reinforce more this year.


Not just for graduate students

With almost two weeks completed and several new ideas later, I have found ways to use this fellowship in the classroom.  Right now I am basically building large-scale models of microfluidic devices.  We, Evgeniya and I, are attempting several different designs.  To accomplish these models, we first make the design on Illustrator and then cut the design out on the laser.  Yah for lasers!  After that we then use PDMS to create a mold.  Once the mold is set and dried, we then use several tubes, tube accessories, and our home-made tools to create the fluidic device.  I will tell you more about the designs tomorrow.  Also, we are starting to build sensors that will be placed in a stream by Lexington. 

This year I am teaching Chemistry so the large-scale models will be excellent.  Not only can we discuss proprieties of particles/chemicals, we can discuss pressure.  These models can be used for demonstration and, if time permits, we could even build our own devices.  I would just need to take some laser cut-out pieces from the lab and the rest is simple.

As for the sensors, they do not fit into the Chemistry curriculum, but that does not mean that they cannot be used.  There are always hard-working, creative students that will volunteer to complete this project.  I already have a list in mind.  Dr. Cindy Harnett and I discussed having a select group of students come to the lab to build a sensor and then go to Floyd's Fork to set it up.  We then could analyze the data at a later date (after school). 

It is amazing how easy and inexpensive it is to do many of these projects.  With the help of Cindy, the implementation of this fellowship into the classroom will be successful.  The work I am doing may have intentions for graduate students, but it is not just for graduate students if implemented properly for a high school student.