The students at Glacier Home School Charter and Mountain Home School Charter got a big surprise last week when Hitachi High Technologies America lent the school one of its highly sophisticated $70,000 microscopes for its science classes.
The Hitachi TM3000 Tabletop Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) was momentarily donated to the school as part of an educational outreach program with the intention of introducing students into the world of science and exposing them to a product few can get their hands on.
Brook Bullock who teaches science classes at Mountain Home School Charter said the microscope was donated through the company after it was requested by someone who had heard about the microscopes availability.
The microscope that can magnify up to 30,000 times compared to 1,000 times with and average microscope used at the school allowed students in the science department a chance to gain a closer look into objects like feathers, ants, and different types of leaves.
Bullock says the donation was greatly appreciated and was set up to give the students a chance to expand their interest in science as well as receive some education on an electron microscope that she herself had never used before.
"My mother has a Master Degree and neither her nor I have had the opportunity to use an electron microscope before," Bullock said.
The 100-pound electron microscope which can see 20 to 30 times closer than most light microscopes used in classrooms, is roughly the size of a desktop computer tower. The microscope requires each item being examined to be placed on a cylinder token that is inserted into an air tight chamber and adjusted to a certain height depending on the desired depth. Once inside all the air and light is completely removed from the chamber allowing electrons to bounce back and forth relaying a image on screen.
The images, displayed on a gigantic projection screen gave the entire class chance to see what the microscope saw in real time and allowed for greater collaborating throughout the classroom, something that can be missed when using personal microscopes.
When asked what they liked most about the electron microscope many of the students noted its simple design which made it much easier to use.
Matthew Englund who teaches Chemistry and Biology at Mountain Home School Charter said he was amazed at the clarity and user friendly style the new Hitachi TM3000 offers.
"The reason this is so nice is because normally the huge ones (microscopes) require a lot of maintenance, now it is scaled down to the desktop size and you actually look at it on your level. This opens up the opportunities for more samples to be tested," Englund said.
The benefit of an electron microscope is the relatively user friendly design to see closer and more detail than has previously been offered with a traditional light microscope seen in classrooms.
The exposure to the microscope was a great opportunity for those thinking about entering the fields of chemistry and biology.
The devise is so unique and user friendly that even some of the students parents arrived on campus to take a look at the machine.
The microscope, which was returned to Hitachi last week, was only on campus for a small period of time although teachers like Mrs. Bullock and Mr. Englund, used the time to infuse the microscope into their daily lectures and labs.
Hitachi is a technology corporation located in Pleasanton, Calif. who sells the microscopes to several different outlets including large tech. companies and food analyzing agencies and the Hitachi TM3000 has been used worldwide in many sector enterprises, universities, government offices and hospitals. It has also been used in a variety of setting including evaluation of certain foods, pharmaceuticals, electronic devises and observations in schools and medical facilities.
The TM3000 is generally used for looking at micro-circuitry, micro-welds and criminal forensics fibers but can be scalled down to observe almost anything.