Science & Engineering Saturday Seminars       Spring, 2014

-        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

Click here for online seminar registration and payment

January 25. Going Down the Powers of Ten Scale.  Rob Snyder, STEM Ed; Jennifer Welborn, Amherst Regional, Mark Tuominen, Physics; Jonathan Rothstein, Mechanical Engineering. Students find it easier to go up the powers of ten scale than down. How can they visualize microscopic and submicroscopic objects? We will explore hands-on ways to “see” and measure down to the nanoscale, including modeling an atomic force microscope. We will also discuss applications of nanotechnology to computers, solar energy, and medicine.

February 1. The QuarkNet Data Portfolio: Using Data from 21st Century Experiments to Teach Entry-level Physics and Physical Science. Tom Jordan, Fermi National Accelerator Lab and Guest Researcher, UMass. 21st century physics can seem obscure and esoteric. Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have written 75 petabytes (75 x 10 15­ bytes) of data in just three short years. "Big Data" is in the public eye in news stories about Amazon, Google or the NSA. QuarkNet has partnered with experiments at Fermilab, CERN, LIGO and others to gain access to datasets and created a Data Portfolio: a suite of investigations that allow students to explore the data and the physics encoded in them. Students can explore momentum conservation, mass-energy equivalence, pattern recognition, histogramming, and other topics using these data. The investigations range from simple to complex, from using paper-and-pencil to web-browsers, and from tens of minutes to days. The investigations allow the students to explore 21st century data and appreciate that they can study some aspect of even the most esoteric experiments. They can access Big Data and ask their own questions.

February 8. Unleashing the “T”: Social, Mobile & Connected, Enhancing STEM with Technology. Sarah Dunton, Girls Inc. of Holyoke. Students will engage with technology and web-based programs that will enhance and enrich STEM lessons in their classroom, on fieldtrips and in informal educational settings. Technology should work for us and deepen our experiences as teachers, while acting as a tool that scaffolds learning for students. Using tablets, laptops and smartphones participants in this session will try some new online tools, consider the potential of social networking in STEM education and explore ways to utilize the “T”. Participants will create an exploratory lesson plan that will include the use of one or more of the hardware or software tools explored in this workshop. Participants should bring smart phones, lap tops and tablets (iPads) if they have them. We will have a limited number of iPads.

March 1. The Biological and Technical Bases of Plant Engineering. Alice Cheung, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  Plants are probably the most manipulable and manipulated higher organisms on this planet. For centuries, farmers and scientists have bred plants in the hope of obtaining new species with more desirable qualities. In the last half century, studies on the fundamental biology of plants and the microbes that affect them for one reason or another, e.g. for symbiosis or as disease agents, have revolutionized how plants can be engineered to the advantage of world agricultural needs. I will discuss the molecular basis of how plant engineering is achieved, the physiological basis that underlies the success of the molecular manipulation, and the genetics that ensure preservation of the introduced qualities. There will be some demonstrations of the experimental processes and some on-hand activities. Materials for classroom exercises will also be made available to teachers upon request and the necessary material transfer agreements between institutions.

March 22.  Seeing Beyond the Visible. John Pickle, Concord Academy; Rob Snyder, STEM Ed; Don Blair, Physics; Stephen Schneider, Astronomy.  A bit less than half the light from the sun is in the visible part of the spectrum. Most of the remainder is in the near infrared, and a few percent is in the ultraviolet. We will explore how your eyes and a camera can “see” beyond the visible. Bring a laptop and a digital camera if you can. If your computer does not already have the Google Chrome browser, please install it and get the Webcam Toy app.  Also, download and install the Analyzing Digital Images software from


March 29. Weather Makeup if needed.
April 26. Recall for those registered for graduate credits. Hasbrouck Lab.

Graduate credit option: There is a charge of $300 for 3 graduate credits plus a $45 registration fee; register for Nat Sci 697A  (Cont ed) or 697 F  (University). 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 Continuing Education 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.