We speak with a Goldsboro High School teacher who received a prestigious technology award for UV radiation and bacterial cell growth research.
On April 10th Goldsboro High School received a prestigious award for its science program. Vernier, a technology and software company, along with the National Association of Science Teachers gave out awards to a handful of schools for innovative projects for students. The award includes the money to attend the conference where they will be recognized, 1000 dollars, and 3000 dollars worth of Vernier products. Next semester, Darrell Coston, whose science project idea won the award, will begin the experiment with a group of students. Stephen O’Connell spoke with Mr. Coston about the upcoming experiment.
"it wasn't my original idea. I attended a workshop at NC State University in the summer of 2011, maybe 2010 and the idea came from that workshop."
I read that the research was using data collection as its main tool. Was the research just as much about the content of it, as it was about teaching students to cope with data collection?
I think it was primarily a little bit of both. It’s to give them the exposure with the probes, and the technology, but as well to give them with the content and understanding the content, and also the data analysis.
You got a grant from this software and technology company Vernier, What technology will you be using to conduct the experiments?
We use a lab acquisition product from veneer call lab quest 2, and lab quest 2 acquires the data and then we also use veneer probes to acquire the data wit, and so we have different types of probes, like for instance, UV radiation probes. It detects the amount of UV Radiation on that particular day. We also can use a probe that looks at dissolved oxygen, as to whether or not that makes a difference in terms of the viability of the bacterial culture. And so you have all these different probes, you have a temperature probe, and then also have a UV Spectrotometer that goes with this, and that’s a separate entity all together, so all these are separate probes that will generate separate data based on the experiment that you are doing.
And when will you start the experiement?
We will start the data collection, maybe this summer, but more realistically probably in the fall.
So there’s going to be a group of high school students starting this experiment soon. Who’s able to participate in the project?
Hopefully I’m going to make it available, but surely I’m only going to have about maybe 6 to 8 students from here, and about 4 from Dillard Middle School. Dillard Middle School is our feeder school.
This sounds like sophisticated research. How many hours do you think this will take up?
Well once we get started it’s going to be, I would think about 10 hours a week, and it would probably run for at least a week, and then you would probably change the protocol a little bit and do something else with it. So it could probably run a semester, and I would say about 8 to 10 hours a week.
At what point will you step back and let the students figure out how to conduct the experiment?
I’m going to teach them sterile technique, and teach them the technique of being able to culture the plates, and to run the experiment as scientifically as possible, and for them it’s their project and I’ll let them make the mistakes and I’ll just be an overseer, but I think there is a lot that they can learn in terms of laboratory technology.
Will you explain for me where you are going to be getting the samples of bacteria for the experiment?
Well what I will do, I will get the bacterial samples probably, I don’t know exactly the strain right now because the paper’s not in front of me but we’ll get a bacterial strain from North Carolina State, where I took that workshop two or three years ago, and we will use that bacterial strain to grow the cultures here at Goldsboro High School, and then expose those plates after the bacterial growth has grown to factors, environmental factors like UV radiation. Some will be exposed, some will not be exposed, some will. I have a sun block to see whether or not if you, sun block would be equivalent to what people put on their skins, to see whether or not that affects the rate of bacterial growth.
You said you were a college student when you first did this experiment, What of kind of problems did you face then that you’ll have to teach your students, now?
This was an idea that was given to me. I took it and put the experiment together under the direction of my professor at N.C. State. And I performed the experiment over the summer. And most of the problems have to be in the…you know where you’re going to have your problems is going to be in the set up. Not necessarily in the collection of the data, not necessarily in the exposure via the experiment, but it’s going to be in that pre-setup. Growing the cultures, making sure everything is sterile, making sure everything is clean as possible. We don’t have nearly what we would need at NC State. You know, NC State has state of the art equipment, we don’t have that, so, but, the main thing about this is just to do a real good experiment, something they can go and produce and show to others.
I’m speaking with Darrell Coston, teacher of Chemistry, Physical Sciences, and Earth Sciences at Goldsboro High School. Thanks for the time.
Alright, well I appreciate it Sir.