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Hands-on learning

CU, FLC scientists bring engineering to IMS

Yes, touch it, ask questions, and learn how it works.

That's part of the hands-on science experience that University of Colorado Boulder and Fort Lewis College faculty are taking on the road, encouraging students to consider careers in engineering and technical fields.

On Wednesday, they visited Ignacio Middle School, and Thursday, they were slated to work in Shiprock.

In the workshops, formed from a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder, UC Irvine and Fort Lewis College, students learned about light on the nano-scale, looking at the evolution of fiber optics from thick cables to tiny strands that look like human hair.

Students and their teachers went through the workshops, which are designed to help the teachers grow their STEM-teaching skills, while the kids learned about the atomic-level of photosynthesis, real-time imaging in the nano-world and electromagnetic energy.

Developments in light and imagery will help young scientists develop the next generation of microscopes, said Ryan Haaland, a member of the physics department at FLC.

Eric Carpenter of CU took the IMS students through almost a dizzying array of scientific gear and gadgets. Popular stations were the night-vision optics, and a computer that displayed hot and cold items the students held in front of a screen.

Carpenter also explained the difference in light waves, showing students lights that they can't see, but deer, cats and dogs can.

"Just because it's invisible, doesn't mean it's not light," Carpenter said. Ultraviolet light, for example, is what causes a sunburn, but it also can be used to create a simple filter to clean water in countries that don't have safe drinking water, he explained. Using a green laser to pop balloons also was popular.

He showed students a glow stick that didn't appear to glow, unless they looked at it through the night vision camera.

Students also strung together black and white beads to represent the initials of their name in binary code, creating a simple bracelet with some meaning behind it.

"This is cool," said seventh grader Teagan Taylor as he fiddled with various items.

Founded in 1983 to heighten young students' interest in science, CU Science Discovery coordinates programs that connect K-12 students and teachers to current CU science. Carpenter particularly urged girls in attendance to consider careers in math, science and engineering.

"We need more ladies," he said. "We need diverse thinking."

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