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'I look like a real scientist!'

Students gain scientific mindset thanks to new equipment
May 30, 2018
Laurel Bingman's students at the Houston Science and Engineering Fair.
Laurel Bingman's students at the Houston Science and Engineering Fair.
Photo Courtesy of Laurel Bingman.

Laurel Bingman participated in science fairs growing up. In 2014, she was a finalist at Intel ISEF. Now, she’s a science teacher at YES Prep Northbrook High School who is eager to get her students engaged in science fairs.

Due to a lack of funding and equipment, YES Prep wasn’t able to start their own science fair program until recently.  

“For students in more affluent schools, it can be assumed that either the students can buy equipment themselves or that this equipment would already be available. However, for us, even items as simple as pipettes were not available,” Laurel said. “This unequal access to materials is part of what perpetuates the educational inequity that we see in our society.”


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This year, Laurel was able to purchase much-needed equipment for her students thanks to a recent Society for Science & the Public STEM Research Grant. Laurel is now  encouraging her students to participate in science fairs, an instrumental opportunity and experience she had as a student.

The students are using the new scientific equipment to complete a variety of projects. One project involved testing to see if vitamin C supplements actually contain the amount of vitamin C that they claim on their product labels.

Using the equipment helped her confidence soar.

Another student, Maria, tested whether steroids, when added to lotion, would be able to pass through someone's skin—in case someone is doped without their knowledge or if they are trying to use it as a method to take steroids.

Maria enjoyed learning about science while reading, but had little background doing science research. Using equipment such as pipettes and test tubes, Maria is now able to challenge herself in a lab setting.

“She substituted cholesterol for the anabolic steroids for safety reasons and then substituted dialysis tubing for skin for ethical reasons. She ultimately found that while cholesterol on its own could pass through the tubing, when mixed with lotion it could not,” explained Laurel.

“Maria’s final conclusion was that based on her data, steroids would not pass through the skin if they are mixed with lotion,” she said. “In the future, Maria wants to see if heating up the lotion or the tubing has any impact on how much is absorbed.”

Due to the difficult nature of her science project, Maria has to come into school on Saturdays to finish her experiments.

“In seeing the pictures I took of her using the materials, she exclaimed, ‘Wow! I look like a real scientist!’ Using the equipment helped her confidence soar,” Laurel said.

Maria, one of Laurel Bingman's students, uses equipment purchased with the STEM Research Grant.
Maria, one of Laurel Bingman's students, uses equipment purchased with the STEM Research Grant.
Photo Courtesy of Laurel Bingman.

“While you might expect her to feel frustrated spending her weekends at school, she consistently came in feeling excited about getting to use the new equipment to find the answers to her question,” Laurel explained.

Maria shared that her "… favorite part was using all the different scientific equipment. I really wish all students could get a chance to use it."

Laurel says she is grateful to the Society for Science & the Public for providing her students with this opportunity.

“We are now one school closer to providing equitable science education to all students. Hopefully sometime soon, Maria's request will become a reality and all students will have the same opportunity she did to explore scientific questions,” Laurel said.

This year, YES Prep Northbrook High School had 15 students who participated in the local science fair. Laurel hopes that number will double next year.

“Truly, the provision of this equipment will leave a legacy that will continue aiding our students in the years to come. One can only imagine the ideas they will test next,” Laurel said.

This year, YES Prep Northbrook High School had 15 students who participated in science fair. Laurel hopes that number will double next year.

“Truly, the provision of this equipment will leave a legacy that will continue aiding our students in the years to come. One can only imagine the ideas they will test next,” Laurel said.