UTC collaboration with Hitachi, IRIS and the Natural History Museum

Huge excitement this week at the UTC, we have taken delivery of a Hitachi Portable Scanning Electron Microscope! This phenomenal piece of kit enables students to observe samples at very high magnification and resolution and will be in the CUC for six weeks. Using the SEM feels like a “once in a lifetime” opportunity… except I hope it will inspire some to pursue a career in this rewarding field.

The SEM arrived on Tuesday, staff were trained on Wednesday and by Lesson 1 on Thursday students were excited to be hands on, preparing, loading and observing samples of their own choice as they got to grips with learning how to use the machine. We aim for everyone in LLS UTC to have the opportunity to use the SEM. Ignite, Year 10, Year 11 Health PBL and Year 12 have scheduled programs of study using the equipment, some students will be using it as part of their EPQ studies, and we hope everyone else will come and take this unprecedented opportunity to have a go!

Projects include wound healing by transglutimase, analysis of 3D printed surfaces, how effectively surfaces can be cleaned, bacterial succession in decay, mutualistic relationships in sloths (many thanks to Cotswold Wildlife Park), the effect of welding on metal structure (many thanks Creative Metal by Tim) and lots more! But for this week, students just had fun loading any sample they fancy and learning the basic techniques. We already have a growing gallery of fab pictures, some are shown here. We have looked at bees and seeds, sponge and grasshoppers, mites and hair and so many amazing things, and we are only a few days in! So many of the images have made us gasp, and we are learning so much!

All the activity on the SEM is being coordinated and facilitated by a team from the Baltic Research Institute, staffed by Year 12 students. We have a team dedicated to getting the best use out of our time with the SEM. There are plenty of staff who are very excited to see this equipment in the building, having spent a long time in science without this opportunity. Dr Dyer, Miss Linkman, Dr Mitchell and Ms Cope have already enjoyed some time on the microscope and are enthusiastic about the insights and rewards it offers. We are already fortunate to have a wide range of visualisation equipment including dissecting microscopes which are backing up our SEM work.

Results from the SEM will be presented at the IRIS conference, entered into the Big Bang competition and for EPQ assessment, and presented at our own CUC Poster Conferences. In addition, features of the work will be included in Hitachi’s Education Outreach Programme, and made available in many countries.

The SEM is on loan from Hitachi in an international scheme facilitated by IRIS (International Research in Schools) and fronted in Britain by Dr Alex Ball of the Natural History Museum in London. Hitachi, Dr Ball, Ms Beckett from Liverpool Uni and our own ICT support have been hugely generous and helpful to us, loaning the SEM and / or giving liberally of their time and expertise to allow our students this outstanding opportunity. Thank you, guys, we really appreciate it! Watch this space!

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