Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bugscope: Exploring the Microscopic World of Insects

Imaging Technology Group, an association of imaging specialists and microscopists at the University of Illinois' Beckman Institute, has found a way to make collecting bugs for a school project more interesting than ever before. The group created a special project known asBugscope for K-12 students. Bugscope provides classrooms with free access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) that can be used to study insect specimens at high-magnification.

What's cool about the Bugscope project is that it is available to everyone in the world. The SEM isn't brought into the classroom. Instead, the classroom is brought to the SEM through a live one-hour web session. During the session, students have full control over the interactive microscope. They can magnify, adjust contrast and brightness, control the focus, and explore preset views setup by the Bugscope team.

Bugscope sessions can be displayed on multiple computers, projectors, and interactive whiteboards. Only one user can operate the microscope at a time, but students can login and view the session on up to 20 different computers at once.

The Bugscope team, which includes several microscopists and an entomology student, are available online via instant messaging so that students can ask questions throughout the session. When the session ends, images and chats are saved and can be viewed later by both students and teachers.

Scheduling a Bugscope Session

There is no cost to participate in a Bugscope session. However, you must schedule a session prior to participation. You can do this by filling out the application form on the Bugscope site. If you are interested in seeing how a Bugscope session works before you apply, you can login as a guest and view an upcoming Bugscope session.

Once your application has been accepted, you can setup a Bugscope session and mail in the specimens you want your class to examine (That's right--it's up to you to send in the bugs!) The Bugscope team will then schedule a demo that allows you to get a feel for the microscope controls before the actual session begins.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degrees for

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