18-wheel classroom is on the road again Teachers receive refresher course in state-of-the-art laboratory Melanie Suter and Karlene Stabe, both of Elk Point, conduct a DNA experiment in the Science on the Move laboratory. The mobile lab, which has been located on the USD campus for approximately two weeks, has been the home of an institute held in Vermillion this week for area educators. Suter and Stabe both teach for the Elk Point-Jefferson School District. by David Lias A semi trailer transformed into a state-of-the-art science laboratory is proving to be an invaluable educational resource to teachers in the Vermillion area.
Science on the Move, a mobile science laboratory initiated by the South Dakota Science and Math Technology Council several years ago, will bring new education capabilities to school districts across the state.
Teachers in the Vermillion area arrived at the USD campus not long after the semi trailer housing the mobile laboratory pulled in to the parking lot of the medical school building.
The mobile lab "is running a series of three institutes this summer, and there has been up to 30 teachers at each institute," said Bob Noiva, a USD Medical School professor who serves on the mobile laboratory's advisory board. "There was one at SDSU, this week there's an institute here in Vermillion, and in addition they used it for the Science for the New Millennium teachers' workshop that was here last week.
"During the last week of July, it will be at Black Hills State University," Noiva said.
Twenty-five teachers have been participating in the institute held in conjunction with the mobile lab's arrival in Vermillion.
The semi trailer that houses the lab can hold up to 30 people. There are 11 laboratory stations, each with a computer, and one teacher demonstration station.
"And it's rigged up � there's a camera on there so that it can project to each of the student stations," Noiva said, "so if the teacher is doing a demonstration, all of the students can see."
"There is some fairly sophisticated science equipment in this mobile lab," said Jerry Opbroek of Mitchell. Opbroek, who retired recently after a stellar education career as a science teacher in the Mitchell School District, was tapped by Gov. William Janklow to coordinate the Science on the Move program.
"Every lab station has a set of science equipment, including a microscope and tools used to conduct DNA experiments. There is sufficient science equipment to completely outfit 11 lab stations," Opbroek said.
"I think that you can safely say that this is the finest teaching laboratory equipment in the state," Noiva said.
"This mobile lab has everything � it has chemistry equipment, it has physics equipment, it has astronomy equipment, and biology equipment. It is the best-equipped lab in the state of South Dakota," Opbroek said.
State educators who helped make the mobile lab concept a reality include Dr. Royce Engstrom, a USD professor, who serves on the South Dakota Science and Technology Council.
"The idea was that in order to improve employment opportunities in the state, the most important thing was to enhance science, math and engineering education in the state," Noiva said. "This project is an effort to improve those three areas."
"Once the science and math technology council conceived this idea, they took it to Gov. Janklow, and he bought into it," Opbroek said.
"Typical of Bill Janklow, he ran with the idea," Noiva said. "I think initially the thought was to buy a bus to house the mobile laboratory. He decided to buy tractor trailers and have the prisoners build them at the Mike Durfee State Prison at Springfield."
"They did a phenomenal job," Opbroek said. "The workmanship that they did at the prison is commendable."
Noiva said the prison work crews met every design challenge that was brought their way.
"They would be told that it needed to be handicapped accessible, and they put a hydraulic
Continued on page 12
lift gate on the back," Noiva said. "It's crazy � these guys would just do things."
The mobility of this state-of-the-art laboratory makes it easier for South Dakota teachers to become familiar with the latest science and engineering curriculum.
"The idea was to give teachers an opportunity, without having to travel too far, to receive some training on what is available in the mobile lab," Noiva said. "The teachers may only have this laboratory for two or three days or a week at their schools."
"The idea of these institutes is to give teachers an idea of what's in the laboratory so they can prepare for it eventually coming to their schools," Opbroek said.
Teachers attending the summer institutes to become familiar with the mobile lab will have the earliest access to it during the school year.
"The lab activities we have are wide range, applicable to fifth grade all the way through senior high school in most of the areas of science," Opbroek said. "The teachers that are attending these workshops will be the teachers that have the first opportunity to have the mobile lab at their schools this coming school year.
"When they leave here, hopefully they will be knowledgeable about what's available and what kind of lab experiments they can introduce to their kids," he said.
The primary funding for the mobile laboratory came from the Governor's Office of Economic Development. It is currently under the administration of the South Dakota Board of Regents.
Additional funding was provided by the National Science Foundation-EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
"The National Science Foundation-EPSCoR funds this program in the state, and the EPSCoR money provides funding to stimulate research here in the state in educational areas," Noiva said. "It works on molecular biology here at USD and SDSU, and it works on atmospheric science projects at EROS Data Center. It's an important program to stimulate big things like this."
The mobile laboratory's success is due, in part, to a collaborative effort by faculty at SDSU and USD who helped develop experiments and curriculum for the Science on the Move project.
"Several South Dakota science teachers have been involved in developing the curricullum," Noiva said.