Science & Engineering Saturday Seminars         Fall, 2010

          Designed for science teachers; new teachers are especially welcome        
    Five Saturdays each term; 8:30-1 at UMass Amherst,
Lederle Grad Towers 1033 (except as noted)
    Educational materials, refreshments, parking, PDP’s included
    Advance registration is required; capacity is limited
    Cost $30 per session, $120 for all five sessions
    4 PDP’s per half day session; option for 3 grad credits at reduced cost with extra work

September 11. Invasive Plant Species: Coming to an ecosystem near you!  Robin Harrington, Turners Falls HS. Invasive species are a threat to biodiversity worldwide, including in local habitats. Understanding of the process of invasion is the first step preventing further spread. Invasive species can be brought into the science curriculum in a number of places: plant growth and reproduction, dispersal, and even as a component of global change. Many students are aware of invasive plants in their neighborhoods or communities. We will focus on the characteristics of invasive plant species and their ecological and economic impacts. We will explore online resources and ideas for student research on invasive species and end with a walk on campus to identify local invasive plant species.

September 25. Active and Passive Solar Energy Fundamentals. Peter Talmage, Greenfield Community College. This seminar will cover the basics of passive and active solar energy: information on solar potential, evaluation of the solar potential at a site and discussions of active and passive solar hot water and solar heating systems. We will construct and use a simple solar tracker and shade evaluation tool, assemble a small simple working solar hot water heater and solar hot air collector. We will learn how to run basic calculations and tests that will give a good idea of the energy output potential of these devices and how these technologies can be applied to our homes.

October 2.  Nanotechnology. Mark Tuominen, Physics.  Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. We will survey what nanotechnology is and its applications, and will look at activities designed to help student comprehend going down the power of ten scale. We will also do a hands-on experiment on the effect of nanoparticles in sunscreen and its role in preventing skin damage and cancer from ultraviolet light.

October 16. Traffic Engineering and the Everyday World. . Mike Knodler, Civil and Environmental Engineering. This seminar introduces basic traffic engineering principles for streets and highways with emphasis on the safe and efficient operation of roadway intersections.  Nearly 40,000 people are killed each year on US roadways, many at intersections.  In addition, increasing traffic volumes has led to congestion requiring improved vehicle movement efficiency at intersections.  Topics to be covered include: vehicle, operator, and roadway characteristics; traffic control; roadway capacity; geometric design objectives and plan formulation; demand forecasting; and economic, social, and environmental evaluation.  The seminar features several hands-on activities adaptable at  all grade levels.

October 30.  Backyard Biofuels: Understanding the Genomic Potential of the Q Microbe.  Integrated Sciences Building. Jeff Blanchard, Microbiology. The forests surrounding the Quabbin reservoir are home to the bacterium, Clostridium phytofermentans. In the last two years C. phytofermentans has become a “Local Hero” and is known as the Q Microbe because it was discovered near the Quabbin reservoir and because of the publicity surrounding the biofuels startup company Qteros. Qteros is founded upon the concept of using this locally   discovered microbe to produce ethanol from plant fibers. The Q Microbe is a very tractable system for engaging high school students in the microbiology of forest soils, genomics and biotechnology. The goal is to provide a fundamental understanding of genome science using free and/or web-based tools, and classroom activities for diverse levels.

November 13. Weather cancellation makeup date if needed.

December 4. . Recall for those registered for graduate credit. Hasbrouck Lab.

Graduate credit option: There is a charge of $300 for 3 Continuing Education credits plus a $45 registration fee. This is in addition to the $120 STEM Education Institute fee. Teachers may obtain credit for the seminar as many terms as they wish, but only 3 credits may be applied to UMass Amherst degrees. A lesson plan and a book report will be required for those enrolled for graduate credit. Register with Continuing Education or the UMass Graduate School for CNS 697S, ST-Contemporary Science and Engineering II. We will have registration forms at the first seminar.

Questions: Mort Sternheim,, 413-545-1908,

Online seminar registration and payment: Required for everyone whether or not they are registering for graduate credit.