What a school science project looks like in 2015
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Students from across America will be demonstrating science projects at the White House’s fifth annual science fair on Monday. With technology transforming what’s possible in the classroom, President Barack Obama will be introduced to a rather impressive line-up, which includes research that seeks to identify cures for cancer and ebola, as well as an “urban” wheelchair with parts from a 3D-printer.
“A lot of the change has come through the use of technology, and really, through the apps that have been developed for tablets and cell phones,” says Norm Brennan, a science teacher at the Mirman school in Los Angeles. Brennan, who was the California State Science Fair Teacher of the Year in 2014, has been teaching for 20 years now.
“I had one group of boys who used an iPhone app for G-forces,” he says. “They were testing the impact of helmets and concussions and putting jell forces to see how that would lessen the effect using an app on an iPhone.”
Then there was a student who used a 3D printer to print a prosthetic arm, which was robotically controlled by putting hooking it up to a glove. Another student developed an app that microbiologists can use to count the number of microbes in a given colony. “Instead of counting them by hand you can take an image through an ipad and it counts for you,” says Brennan.
Funding is sometimes an issue, he admits, but since he teaches at a private school, parents sometimes help out. The school is also planning on applying for grants that fund science or STEM-based projects, Brennan adds.
Science fairs, he says, have certainly come a long way since he was a student. Back then, he was studying the impact of magnetic waves on a colony of ants on the move, so he placed magnets in an ant-infested area and waited to see what would happen.
“It had no effect on them,” he says. “They walked right by.”
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