Science & Engineering Saturday Seminars       Spring, 2012 

Online seminar registration and payment:


January 28. Strategies for Teaching Atomic Structure and Quantum Mechanics. Mike Thompson, Chemistry, Amherst Regional High School. The structure of the atom is one of the most fundamental concepts in all of science and also, in my experience, one of the most difficult to teach at an introductory level.  In this seminar, we will explore ways to introduce the basic principles of atomic structure and quantum mechanics to upper elementary, middle, and high school students through demonstrations, lab activities, computer simulations, and analogies.  Topics will include: a brief history of atomic structure, the Bohr model of the atom, the wave/particle duality, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, wave functions and orbitals, and electron configurations.  We’ll also look at some important applications of quantum mechanics, including Neon lights, fluorescence, lasers, spectroscopy, and chemical bonding.

February 4. Solar Learning Laboratory. Chris Emery and Rob Snyder, STEM Ed. Thirteen area schools will have solar learning laboratories installed, thanks to Small Business Innovation Research grant (ED-IES-11-C-0022) from the US Department of Education. These are solar photo-voltaic systems that deliver electrical power and supply a small part of the schools’ needs. A variety of associated hands-on materials have been developed and can be incorporated into many STEM curricula. We will explore how students can identify suitable sites, determine the correct orientation of a solar array, and with a bench-top lab kit, explore the conversion of energy, determine the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell, and much more.

March 3. Water Quality. David Reckhow, Environmental Engineering; Amy Biddle, Microbiology. Fresh water is extremely important. We use it for drinking, preparing food and bathing, as well as in agriculture, industry and recreation. The presence of contaminants can severely impede its use and lead to serious health problems. Even the most pristine water contains some salts and natural organic compounds. This seminar will give an overview of the science behind the sources, environmental impacts and health concerns of natural organic matter in water, as well as treatment methods and how they work.  Hands on activities that can be easily used with middle and/or high school students will employ digital imaging and analysis to assess the levels of natural organic matter in water as well as the effectiveness of treatment methods. Bring a digital camera and a laptop if you can.

March 17.  KidWind.  Susan Reyes, Science and Sustainability Educator. Learn about the knowledge, skills and resources needed to bring wind energy education into your classroom using standards-based activities in an engaging, hands-on manner. KidWind offers a comprehensive interdisciplinary wind energy curriculum called WindWise Education for middle and high school levels. Every lesson has an inquiry-based introduction and a hands-on activity to develop analytical skills. Questions addressed include how a generator works, which blades work best, the risk to birds and bats, what causes wind, and where to site a wind farm. Also, learn about the KidWind Challenge, a competition where teams test home-made, small-scale wind turbines in a wind tunnel. See

March 31. Air Quality. Stephen Schneider, Astronomy; Deborah Carlisle, Education. Involve your students in air quality research projects that help them to understand the real issues. Air quality is one of our primary environmental concerns, and students will become informed about these important issues through simple investigations. In this workshop, you will test for ground level ozone, which is a primary component of smog. You will learn how to make inexpensive ozone test papers and use a free digital software program to analyze the colors of your test strips. Based on this activity, you can have your students measure ozone levels near your school and/or where they live using the homemade chemical test papers. These papers are easy to use and store in ziplockTM baggies. Analysis of exposed papers using the Analyzing Digital Images software program will be demonstrated and practiced during the workshop. This software allows your students to measure color changes quantitatively and do relatively accurate comparisons to actual ozone levels. We will also include some activities for measuring carbon dioxide. Bring a digital camera and a laptop if you can.

April 28. Weather Makeup if needed.
May 5. Recall for those registered for graduate credits. 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. 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.