WebSEM: An Assessment of K‐12 Remote Microscopy Efforts

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Chumbley, A. E.
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Ames National Laboratory

Ames National Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), operated by and located on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

For more than 70 years, the Ames National Laboratory has successfully partnered with Iowa State University, and is unique among the 17 DOE laboratories in that it is physically located on the campus of a major research university. Many of the scientists and administrators at the Laboratory also hold faculty positions at the University and the Laboratory has access to both undergraduate and graduate student talent.

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Materials Science and Engineering

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering teaches the composition, microstructure, and processing of materials as well as their properties, uses, and performance. These fields of research utilize technologies in metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, and electronic materials.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering was formed in 1975 from the merger of the Department of Ceramics Engineering and the Department of Metallurgical Engineering.

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Within the past 10 years a number of institutions have developed and instituted systems and programs that enable remote control of a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Geared toward use by teachers and educators in K‐12 classrooms, these systems have offered access to advanced instrumentation to thousands of students over the past decade. However, despite the enormous potential and promise associated with remote microscopy, the reality has been that most such systems are not utilized to their fullest extent. This is partly due to time constraints on the instrument; many such systems are an integral part of the research and/or teaching focus of the institution that offers the service, and as such, K‐12 educators are forced to compete with institutional demands. Often this restricts the amount of lessons that can be conducted to a relatively small number, in rather narrowly defined windows of opportunity. However, even when such constraints do not exist, the number of lessons typically requested remains disappointingly low, and the lessons that are conducted are usually simple examinations lacking in depth. In an effort to determine why the promise of K‐12 remote microscopy has not been fully realized, a number of assessments have been carried out at Iowa State University in relation to operation and use of the WebSEM, the Web‐controllable SEM operated by the Materials Science and Engineering Department of Iowa State University as a part of Project ExCEL, the Extended Classroom for Enhanced Learning. These assessments indicate that the key to successful use of advanced equipment in K‐12 classrooms depends less upon hardware than it does upon local instructional situations. Establishing a personal relationship between the SEM operator and the teacher in the classroom appears to be the best way to increase current use of remote microscopy.


This is the published version of the following article: Chumbley, A. E., and L. S. Chumbley. "WebSEM: An Assessment of K‐12 Remote Microscopy Efforts." Scanning: The Journal of Scanning Microscopies 29, no. 1 (2007): 20-26. DOI: 10.1002/sca.20001. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2007