This lab has many uses (rocks, minerals, thin sections, experiments, etc.) and is not typically available to departments like ours. A common multi-purpose lab has rows of benches, but this lacks flexibility so we have opted for a design that allows people to work in groups more easily.
We have structured the lab around three microscopy hubs, each constructed as hexagonal tables, with free space at the back of the room for lab benches suitable for hand specimens and other wet or dirty lab exercises.
The custom built hexagonal tables are equipped with power outlets for 6 microscopes and have a central open pillar (the “rabbit hole”) that provides access for video cabling and power conduit. These clusters of students allow for much more interaction between them and with their instructor.
Funds for this lab renovation were provided by donations from alumni, emeritus faculty and friends of the department. Swenson College of Science & Engineering helped cover some of the renovation expense and we received individual gifts of $5,000 to $20,000 to purchase new microscopes.
Each student microscope is fitted with an analog-type CCD video camera. There is no image capture with these cameras, but they provide a live video feed to overhead LCD projectors.
We have two overhead projectors — on the right are feeds from all the video cameras and on the left, you can feed in from a laptop, the lab computer, digital camera on the instructor scope, or video camera on the instructor scope. There is a lot of flexibility for showing a combination of live images and presentations.
Also, each microscope hub has a laser pointer so students can share information from their desk.
Each student microscope has a solid-state CCD Hitachi video camera mounted on the photo tube. These provide live, high resolution video. They are very simple to operate and are small enough to not obscure students’ view.
The Instructor microscope is a higher quality, research-grade microscope which students can also use on classroom or thesis research projects. It has the same CCD video camera option as the other scopes and is capable of live projection.
It also has a separate digital camera for high-resolution image capture to an attached computer, plus some image processing software. This gives instructors and students access to traditional digital image capture as needed.