NASA’s Virtual Lab

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Have you ever wanted to show your students pictures from a scanning electron microscope or, even better yet, wanted your students to explore a specimen using a scanning electron microscope? Well, now you no longer need to apply for that multi-million dollar grant for one of these pricey microscopes. At the NECC conference Lisa and I found a FREE digital version.

Using funding from NASA researchers from the Imaging Technology Group, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and the Institute for Genomic Biology have put together a product called Virtual Lab. This product is a downloadable virtual microscope program that allows the user to examine 63 different specimens using a scanning electron microscope, a fluorescent light microscope, an energy dispersive spectrometer, or an atomic force microscope. The specimens range in variety from a common house fly to a human kidney stone and a NASA heat tile. Virtual Lab also includes Flash animation videos demonstrating how each type of microscope works, how they are used at NASA, and how the specimens were prepared. The program is a quick download and each specimen is downloaded separately.

Currently Virtual Lab can be downloaded by going to http://educollege.ucf.edu/nasa. Starting sometime in August Virtual Lab will move to another website along with lesson plans to support implementation of Virtual Lab in the classroom. This new website is www.nasa.education.ucf.edu/cogs.

When you have a moment take a look at Virtual Lab and let me know what you think. I believe this would be an excellent program to download to the student laptops, especially for the 7th grade Life Science microscope unit.

Joe

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