Bugscope: Online K-12 Microscopy Outreach

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Microscopy Today







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Bugscope is a free online microscopy outreach program that offers K–12classrooms anywhere in the world the ability to remotely operate a high-resolution scanning electron microscope, collect images of insects and other similar arthropods, and chat simultaneously with a team of scientists. It was conceived and implemented in the late 1990s when K–12 schools were beginning to gain broadband Internet access, many as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. One of several projects that took advantage of this opportunity to use the Internet to bring the laboratory into the classroom, Bugscope began as an NSF grant to purchase a field-emission scanning electron microscope and develop sophisticated client and server software to control it via a standard web browser. Inspired by the success of and lessons learned from the Chickscope remote magnetic resonance imaging project and from having successfully established remote web-based control of a transmission electron microscope, Clint Potter and Bridget Carragher created the Bugscope project with the goal of developing a remote microscopy educational outreach project that would be sustainable over the long term. This goal led to two significant design decisions. First, the software involved in setting up and running the liveoutreach sessions was purpose-built to ensure that only one staff member, if necessary, would be required at the instrument (as opposed to Chickscope, which required staff at the remote location as well as at the instrument). Second, students from a local high school would be employed as a renewable resource to help with pre-session sample preparation and to participate in live chat, answering questions from the remote classrooms. Although we now operate with permanent staff at the instrument, these efficiencies in the original concept/design have allowed Bugscope to operate continuously since March 1999, long after the original funding was exhausted.

Publication Information

Robinson, S., Conway, C., Wallace, C., Ray, A. M., & Thakkar, U. (2011). Bugscope: Online K-12 microscopy outreach. Microscopy Today, 19(2), 26-29.


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