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3-Executive Summary: Survey

Conducted March 1, 2010
Executive Summary

Based on our survey, it was found that only a very small number of high schools (13) across the United States have Scanning Electron Microscopes. Approximately half of these schools responded to this survey.

All of the schools responding in this survey had its SEM donated mostly by corporate sponsors. The donated SEM required parts and/or maintenance done to get the equipment running but these resources and costs were donated to the schools so the school had no out-of-pocket costs in order to get the SEM up and running.

Respondents states that maintenance on the SEM was minimal and when maintenance was required, time and costs are generally donated.

SEM usage is on average between 2 to 5 hours per week per student. One school does teach an entire semester on the subject of microscopy. One respondent stated he has a specific projects associated with SEM that fosters scientific curiosity. In most cases, the SEM is open for general use and can be used for science fairs or other science projects. It appears that as few as 4 students and as many as 45 students could use an SEM during the semester depending on the High School resources and program available.

Respondents state that the biggest problems they have for a successful program are getting teachers adequately trained to use the equipment and allocated dedicated class time towards the SEM.

Conclusion: Only a handful of United States high schools are using SEMs to help further inspire science and curiosity in their students. In order to further broaden SEM use in U.S. high schools, equipment and maintenance costs may need to be donated since many schools cannot afford associated costs. For those schools that do have SEMs, they may benefit from a professionally developed curriculum and support tools (such as websites and video links for training). Partnerships with Universities near the high schools may strengthen students drive towards science and pursuing a career in science.

Survey Respondent Bios

· David Jones lives in New York State and donated Zeiss DMS 940A to Haldane Central School, Cold Springs, NY. He is an experience engineer and teacher with in-depth knowledge of SEMs and has rebuilt and donated instruments to schools while still engaged in their own occupations.

· Dr. Michael Brown is the Science Department Chair at AACE-PV, Arizona and is in process of rebuilding a Cambridge 360 for his school in his home state. He is an experienced engineer and teacher with in-depth knowledge of SEMs and rebuilding the instrument as a volunteer while maintaining his professional career.

· Justin Kraft lives in West Florida and is a professional Engineer and Teacher with in-depth knowledge of SEMs and their application.

· Ken Converse (Quality Images) and Hobie Richards (Technical Sales Solutions) have donated instruments to Haldane Central HS, Red Lion, Pennsylvania and Valley Catholic, Beaverton, Oregon.  "Any tool that can inspire and connect a student to science is worth having. I feel that the SEM will open up doors into areas of science I was not able to offer in the past."

. June Poling, High School Teacher,
Beaverton Oregon, Valley Catholic, Beaverton, Oregon, Middle School teacher instructing classes and using a SEM in the classroom.  

. Heather Fogel, Red Lion, Pennsylvania, High School teacher instructing classes and using a SEM in her classroom.

· Dave Becker is from Bergen County Academies, New Jersey
Principal and supporter of the Bergen County Nanotechnology and STEM Cell Research Facility for High School students.

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Respondent Specific Responses

How did your school come to have a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)?

JPoling, H.Fogel: Received SEMs from corporate sponsors.
JKraft: I've actually changed the direction I took with getting SEM's into high schools, and have built a small lab that can accommodate bringing the high school students to the lab. I've got a JSM-35C "FrankenScope" (As I call it- I made it work from taking parts from four of them that didn't work!) as well as various specimen prep equipment,
and several decent light microscopes. I also have Topcon ABT-SX40 which is extremely easy to use, so I can let the kids lose on it without a whole lot of training.
DJones: Donated.
JPoling: A parent at our school services electron microscopes (Hobie Richards, Technical Sales Solutions. One of his clients did not want the SEM back and asked him to find a good home for it. He offered it to our school. The SEM has been in the middle school lab for a little over a year now. Our school covers grades 7-12. The SEM was placed in the middle school lab because the high school labs did not have space for it. Students at the high school have full access to the SEM.
Dr.M. Brown: The SEMS were donated by an acquaintance of mine who is a lead researcher for Motorola. Motorola was downsizing their research department and wanted to get rid of the microscopes."
Dave Becker: BCA has new SEM, TEM, Confocal tools and are integrated into Bio and Nano technology industries. The school provides access to their equipment in exchange for professional project involvement for their students.
(this web site answers most questions posed in the survey, you are invited to look at what they are doing here)
HFogell: Our S.E.M. was donated by Mr. Ken Converse, owner of Quality Images, who was a parent within the district.

What problems were encountered during installation?

JPoling: No problems…we did have to run 220 to the unit which cost us $2,000. The school, fortunately, covered the cost.
D.Jones: Instrument was not running. It required parts and extensive cleaning in addition to a keyboard. Costs for power, water, air conditioning, air compressor were absorbed by the donor, gifts or small grants.
M.Brown: The microscopes had been dismantled some years ago and put into storage. They had numerous significant and unexpected electronic issues when we reassembled them.
HFogell: Mr. Converse saw to it that it went relatively smoothly. We placed it in a storage room and had to have a water supply installed. The room did not have air conditioning so the S.E.M. often went into vacuum default until moved to the new addition. The small size of the room also limited how many students could fit at one time.

How many hours is it used weekly, monthly or yearly?

JPoling: At this point, the SEM is used 1 to 2 hours a week during the school year.
HFogell: It's use varies greatly depending on student interest. Intro/Demo to 475 (Biology) students, then the lead teacher uses it as for demo's 5-10 times a week for about 45 minutes each. Smaller group training is done throughout the year in student groups 3-5 / week for 45 min. sessions. Mini courses are offered to the gifted students and AP bio students (~ 15 students) for 1 - 45 minute block. At science fair time, between 2-5 students typically share large blocks of time on the machine, typically 1-2 hours a day for a 1-3 weeks. Teacher use is approximately 1-3 hours a week. It is also available for independent student use at any time it is not in use for science fair or by a teacher.
School #2: 2-3 hours / week
M.Brown: Teaches a full semester course on the subject. Usage varies.

Does your school pay for maintenance?

DJones: No. All donor volunteered.
HFogell: Mr. Converse donates his time and often the materials to maintain the machine. Despite moving to Maine, he stops by twice a year to do a routine maintenance and offers unlimited phone assistance when not in town. A small grant from a local professional was obtained to buy the compressor for the machine.
MBrown: Maintenance is mostly performed by myself and some engineer friends of mine. We have hired a technician once, the school paid for that.

How often does your instrument require maintenance?

DJones: Very infrequently. After setting it up and getting everything aligned, I have not had to go back to service this instrument in several years. Very seldom. 2 maintenance checks per year; filament change.
HFogell: Our ETEC machine is amazingly reliable. Other then frequent refocusing and astigmatism adjustments to account for student use, it requires very little maintenance. Typically it is down only once or twice a school year and rarely has more wrong with it than is fixable by the yearly routine. The SEMICAPS image capture device is much more troublesome and is in need of replacing as soon as funds allow.

Do your students use the SEM or is it there for demonstration purposes only?

JPoling: I’m encouraging my students to use the SEM. I’m trying to de-mystify the SEM by having students come in after school to create a “mystery photo”. The photo is then displayed for all classes to see. Students try to guess what the photo is and receive extra credit for right answers. This has the added bonus of teaching about scales. How small is a micrometer? What does it mean when an object is magnified 500X? I’m also encouraging students to use the SEM for their science fair projects. All middle school students are required to develop, design and conduct an experiment for the science fair. Several students have expressed interest in using the SEM for their project. It helped to let parents know about the SEM at back to school night. Several parents have asked if they can come in sometime to see it in action.
DJones: Students use the instrument, with supervision. It is open for general use.
MBrown: Students are taught how to use the microscope. Open for general use.

How many students are trained to use the SEM?

JPoling: At this point, there are 4 students trained. I hope to increase that number as the year goes on.
DJones: All who express an interest. School #1: 20 students trained in 45 min. sessions/ 2-3x/week. Gifted students are given mini courses in 1, 45 min block.
MBrown: 12 per semester, the use of the microscope is part of a semester long course on microscopy.
HFogell: The donation of the machine was with the understanding that as many students as possible would have access to the machine. Approximately 15 to 40 students go through the training sessions yearly but, realistically, only about 5 - 10 continue using it after science fair or after the end of their mini-course. Intimidation and ideas for projects are 2 major stumbling blocks for students.4 students trained. (30, min. to 1 hr. - after school)

What problems have you encountered in providing training?

Time is the number one problem. Students come in after school and can only spend 30 min. to an hour working on the SEM. I’m encouraging them to come in several times because I’ve noticed they get better images with practice.
There are two teachers in this high school that have had training in the SEM. One worked in research at IBM running similar equipment prior to becoming a teacher. Coordinating teacher/ student time.
An SEM provides a significant equipment bottleneck, which is a particular problem at the high school level. It is hard to keep the whole class engaged while one or a couple of students are actively using the microscope.
The training is on the lead teacher's own time and it is often hard to coordinate with the activities of the students. The machine looks quite intimidating and despite training, the students are often hesitant to utilize the machine for fear of breaking it. Getting over the student's tendency for instant gratification is a bit For higher magnifications, quite a bit of time and adjustments to the astigmatism is required and students often shy away from

Is the SEM used as a part of a specific class or is it open for general use?

DJones: I'm not sure if its open for general use - but there have been at least two advanced science courses that have been created using this instrument. Utilized for Science Fair Projects: #1: 2-5 student groups/ 1-2 hours / day/1-3 weeks. All available for general use to interested students.
MBrown: The use of the microscope is part of a semester long course on microscopy, it is my intention to incorporate it in the future into a guided research project course that I also teach.
HFogell: It is introduced in Biology classes, integrated into a few activities for AP Bio; The topic of an occasional gifted mini-course, and is open for general use by any student who gets trained.

Would you like professional speakers to come in and talk to your students?

JPoling: Speakers would be wonderful. I would love to further de-mystify the SEM. Education and experience is the best way to do this. I would also love some training on what the SEM is capable of. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what the SEM provide in the classroom. I took a group of students to the donor parent’s facility to seeother electron microscopes. Students were amazed and excited to see such powerful instruments.
HFogell: Sure!

Are students excited by the opportunity to use and SEM?

JPoling: Students in general are excited about the SEM. I just wish we had more time to play with it.
DJones: VERY!
HFogell: Students are very excited about the microscope and the opportunity it allows them.
MBrown: Varies. Some are, some are ambivalent.

Do you feel an SEM leads to interest in science careers?

JPoling: Any tool that can inspire/connect a student to science is worth having. I feel that the SEM will open up doors into areas of science I was not able to offer in the past.
DJones: Surprisingly, it has led to interest in several fields - students have expressed interest to expand the imaging into art as well as science fields. I believe there were some other areas that were quite surprising to see the students come up with ideas for its use.
MBrown: Not sure. I don’t think it has inspired anyone to become a scientist that did not already have an interest.
HFogell: I think that it certainly helps solidify an interest in scientific pursuits. We sometimes share our images with elementary schools in the district and that definitely peeks interest in science equipment, if not careers.

What peripheral equipment do you own for sample preparation?

DJones: Sputter coater.
MBrown: Fume hood, critical point drier. Am hoping to acquire a sputter coater shortly.
HFogell: We have a sputter coater (carbon & gold/tungsten) on site.

Additional comments:
HFogell : What I'd really like to do is team up with some undergrad or grad program and allow the use of our SEM in exchange for allowing our students a "window" on their research. My students could even do some of the technician work. I want them to experience the use of complex equipment with the research experience.