The Virtual Lab is a suite of simulations of advanced microscopes, including the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM); Fluorescence Light Microscope; Energy Dispersive Spectrometer (for the SEM); and an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). There are a range of specimens accessible through these tools, such as the eye of a housefly, euglena, an integrated circuit, and lunar dust. The Virtual Lab was developed by NASA within the Learning Technologies Project (LTP), and the software was designed and built by the Beckman Institute.
The software was refined using the findings from a study I conducted funded by the BellSouth Foundation in low socioeconomic schools using the Virtual Lab. The study documented the use of the Virtual Lab software within tenth grade science classrooms in the 2004—2005 school year (n=225) in low socioeconomic status areas in Orange County, Florida, while contributing to the further development of the program.
Working with my colleague, Theresa Martinez, at NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), we recently launched Cogs (Connecting a Generation to Science) on the Web (http://www.nasa-inspired.org/). This project seeks to develop materials to support the systemic integration of NASA's Virtual Lab into middle and high school classrooms nationally.
We developed Cogs from requests for support made by teachers when we piloted the Virtual Lab. While Cogs includes the Virtual Lab download and teaching materials to support the use of this simulation, teachers can post requests for new specimens to be added or they can ask questions that can be addressed by experts in the field.
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