BELLBROOK — Some budding scientists at Bellbrook Middle School had the chance to use a scanning electron microscope to get up close and personal with several objects.
Members of Jennifer and Cathy St. Pierre’s seventh grade sciences classes participated in the SEMEDS (Scanning Electron Microscope EDucatorS) after school program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which allows local students and teachers to operate state-of-the-art scanning electron microscopes in a real life laboratory setting. This educational outreach program is conducted by volunteers from WPAFB and is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.
Using the scanning electron microscope, students could zoom in on a mite on the back of a tick’s ear, the scales on a butterfly wing, and the stomata openings on a leaf.
The session began with a brief explanation of what a SEM is, how it works, and the scientific concepts behind it. Students were also briefed on typical careers and training needed in the microscopy field. They were then escorted to one of the SEM labs for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience first-hand what it’s like to use a $500,000 microscope to explore a wide variety of unique and everyday specimens.
Student responses included comments like, “This is so cool,” “I see why the mosquito bite hurts when that sharp edge goes in me,” and “I never knew the color on a butterfly wing is really light reflections from the scales on it wing. I did not even know it had scales.” The students gave presentations to their science classes and shared the amazing pictures of their explorations with the scanning electron microscopes.
Bringing students into this world-class facility, introducing them to the elite researchers who work here, and allowing them to use the same equipment the scientists use in their laboratories is a very special experience that cannot be duplicated, according to Cathy St. Pierre.