Symbi, Iowa's first GK-12 Program is a partnership between Iowa State University and the Des Moines Public School District. Symbi is funded by the National Science Foundation to support Iowa State University graduate students (Fellows) conducting interdisciplinary research in areas associated with biorenewables. Each Fellow works collaboratively with a selected middle school science teacher to leverage the Fellow's research experiences as they develop innovative and engaging science activities for middle school students. The Fellows spend one full day every week throughout the public school year in a Des Moines middle school science classroom performing the duties of a "resident scientist" as they interact with their partner teacher and students. Symbi is a response to President Obama's call to the nation's scientists to "spend time in the classroom, talking and showing young people what it is that your work can mean and what it means to you […] to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eruptions of Color

Bob Literman, Symbi Fellow, helped Gary Morris' science classes learn about pH. Today didn't require your standard pH paper and unknown liquids to dip test. Instead - baking soda, ammonia, laundry detergent, water, vinegar, and a red cabbage were the ingredients of today's pH tests. 

Students from Gary Morris' science class
get excited about the foam produced from the "mega volcano"
Symbi Fellow, Bob Literman, produced to show pH. 
Literman explained to the classes how bases and acids work and showed a PowerPoint slide with a simple pH scale on it and began to show the classes different pH levels in baking soda, ammonia, vinegar, and laundry detergent. 

The Universal Indicator being used? Cabbage water. Literman explained to the class that red cabbages contain a special part of them that acts as a Universal pH Indicator when blended with water and mixed with various items. 

Eventually, Literman turned the experimenting over to the students and the pH experiments became a science fair classic - volcanoes! 

Each group of students made small volcanoes in a beaker to show how when baking soda and vinegar mix they neutralize each other. All of the students were impressed with the color change and eruption of colored foam that was produced - and smelled like cabbage from the indicator. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fueling Up for the Future

With energy being a big focus of how we're going to push through effectively to the future, Tim Weida's eighth grade science classroom engaged in an experiment put together by the Iowa State Biotechnology Outreach Education Center - all with the help and guidance of Ryan Swanson.

Swanson, a Symbi fellow, felt this experiment worked well with their current science unit on sources of energy. 
Students in Tim Weida's eighth grade general science class
observe their mixture. 

The class mixed together your standard store-bought vegetable oil, soybean oil, methanol, and sodium hydroxide to form their bio-diesel. 

The process became a two day project; day one consisting of the mixing of the reactants and day two consisting of separation of the phases produced. These phases consisted of the bio-diesel and glycerin, a common product found in soap. 

"After a little bit of cleaning up, the bio-diesel formed could be used to run a car," Swanson said. 

This is just another example of how the Symbi Program is helping to influence the minds of tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Students Gain Knowledge in Glass

On November 2, six students from Luke Spencer's eighth grade science class visited the Iowa State University campus. Their mission was to learn more about the complex research their fellow, Christian Bischoff does.

Bischoff, a doctoral candidate in Materials Science and Engineering, planned various events for the students all involving glass - an integral part of his research. 

Spencer and the students Skype called their class during parts of the day to update them on their adventures. 

One stop of their day was to the Glass Shop. While there, Trond Forre showed the students some of his works for various departments on campus as well as how Pyrex can be molded and the various parts of fiber optic cables.

Symbi Fellow, Christian Bischoff  with partner teacher, Luke
Spencer and 8th graders from Harding Middle School learn
about the various items that glassblower, Trond Forre, creates.

This stop really impacted one of the Harding eighth graders.

"The glass shop was a cool experience - seeing how all the glass is made," said April, one of the Spencer's students that made the trip to Ames.

Additionally, the students spent the afternoon in Bischoff's laboratory. They Skype called their class again to touch base, saw some of the technologies that Bischoff uses daily, and then got the experience to make their own glass. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Testing the Waters at Grays Lake

Symbi Fellow, Paul Skrade, explains to students
how to read phosphate indicators.
On Tuesday, September 18, Paul Skrade along with Ms. Kissell's seventh grade science class from Brody Middle School trekked to Grays Lake.

Their purpose? To test the waters of Grays Lake. Not to actually jump in - but instead to test the water quality of the lake used as part of the annual Hy-Vee Triathlon .

Students gathered a water sample to conduct their experiments from. They then proceeded to use different indicator tablets with parts of the water sample to check the levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphate, nitrate, turbidity, coliform bacteria, and the water temperature. These tests are great indications of how well a body of water is doing.

A second round of tests will be conducted by Brody Middle Schoolers and Skrade on September 25.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Symbi 2012

Our Symbi Scientists are in the classrooms this fall working on exciting and educational activities with Des Moines Public Schoolers. Everyone involved is excited for another year full of science exploration!

Be sure to check out the rest of our Symbi Website and check back for new posts, videos, and photos.