The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has a national convention each year that is attended by more than 10,000 science teachers. This year the convention was held between March 22 and March 25 in St. Louis. The show consists of lectures, workshops and a huge exhibit hall where hundreds of companies show off products and services for science teachers.
The exhibits are fascinating. If you did not get a chance to attend this year's convention, this article will take you on a virtual tour of the show, stopping at 20 of the more interesting booths. Enjoy!
NASA had a huge presence at the NSTA convention. The main feature of the exhibit was a mock-up of one of the modules for the International Space Station, shown here:
Inside, the mock-up showed you what it will look and feel like inside this module.
For more information, visit www.nasa.gov.
The Exploratorium is a huge hands-on science museum in San Francisco. The museum also has an extensive outreach program to the world's science teachers. At the Exploratorium booth, the staff demonstrated several simple experiments that help students learn different scientific principles.
One apparatus, made of a plastic tube, a 500-turn coil of wire and a few disk magnets, creates a simple generator when you shake the magnets back and forth in the tube:
This is the simplest possible electrical generator. A two-color light emitting diode (LED) mounted on the tube showed that the apparatus was generating current.
Another apparatus modulates a radio's sound onto the light from an LED, which is then turned back into a electrical signal by a solar cell:
Simple, inexpensive setups like these are called "snacks," and you can see dozens of them at www.exploratorium.org/snacks.
Wisconsin FastPlant has developed a plant that goes from seed to seed in about 35 days. That is, if you plant a FastPlant seed, the seed will grow into a plant, which then creates more FastPlant seeds in just 35 days.
The plants are great for genetics experiments. The company also offers fast-maturing butterflies that develop in about 30 days. For more information, see www.fastplants.org.
U.S. Fuel Cell Council
The U.S. Fuel Cell Council demonstrated a number of simple fuel cell applications and teaching materials for the classroom. The Council's goal is to help more teachers bring fuel cell science into the classroom.
For example, this small fuel cell demonstrator runs on methanol and air and is produced by HelioCentris:
For more information, visit www.usfcc.com.
HowStuffWorks announced its "Free to Schools" program for its magazine called HowStuffWorks Express. At the booth, teachers could learn about the magazine and sign up for 60 free copies for the class delivered six times a year.
For more information or to sign up for your free copies, see express.howstuffworks.com.
Intel demonstrated its inexpensive digital microscope. This microscope hooks into a USB port like a webcam, and allows magnifications up to 200X. You can view microscope images on the screen, save them, e-mail them, distribute them on a Web page, etc.
For more information, see www.intel.com/education.
Carolina Biological Supply
Carolina Biological Supply is the nation's largest supplier of biological supplies, from live specimens to preserved specimens to microscope slides. For example, you can buy live lizards, fruit flies, tarantulas, fish and a wide variety of other living specimens directly from the company:
The company also sells a huge variety of supplies ranging from equipment to classroom materials in areas such as physics, chemistry and earth sciences. For example, CBS has a wide variety of microscopes it manufactures, as well as comprehensive packaged teaching materials for classes produced in conjunction with the Smithsonian.
For more information, see www.carolina.com.
NASCO produces supplies and demonstration kits for the science classroom. For example, NASCO sells preserved, inflatable swine lungs, both in the healthy state and the "years of smoking" state, to demonstrate how lungs work and the effects of smoking.
NASCO also sells dried lung sections and a wide variety of other materials:
For more information, see www.enasco.com.
WGBH's booth offered hundreds of NOVA video tapes and other tapes from their acclaimed series.
For more information, see wgbh.org.
There were live owls at the show...
...as well as a rather odd byproduct of owls called owl pellets. Owls regurgitate the pellets as a way of eliminating undigested bones, etc. from the mice and other animals they eat.
Students take owl pellets apart in biology class to learn about the life of owls. For more information, see www.owlpellets.com.
Palm demonstrated a science module and software that turns a Palm computer into a data logging and graphing machine.
Dozens of sensors from Vernier connect to the module to detect everything from acceleration to pH. For more information, see www.imagiworks.com.
Monarch Watch is a huge educational resource for teachers and students who want to learn more about monarch butterflies or participate in capture and release programs.
Extensive online materials and information are available at monarchwatch.org.
PocketScope is an extremely interesting idea for small, indestructable field microscopes. The microscopes have a single lens, are made of plastic, fit in your pocket and have 150X magnification. The price is about $30 per unit.
The demonstration units at the show present extremely clear, bright images. For more information, see pocketscope.com.
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri was out in force to show teachers a number of classroom demonstrations and present different engineering programs for students. Free kits are available from acers.org to demonstrate superconductivity (you need access to liquid nitrogen for this to work):
Heating a space shuttle tile with a blow torch shows the incredible insulating properties of this ceramic material:
For more information, contact Lori Gilmore.
The Rainforest Resource Campaign, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, creates education and adoption programs for students to help preserve the rain forests.
For more information, see earthfound.com.
Pasco demonstrated a wide variety of integrated probeware for students ranging from middle school to college courses.
Probes connected to data interface units can dock with a portable data logging unit. The data logger can store up to 50,000 data points in 100 data sets. The logger automatically recognizes the probe type when it connects. Later, the data logger can connect to a laptop or desktop computer via a USB port. Software on the computer automatically recognizes the data logger, downloads the data, stores it and graphs it.
For more information, see www.pasco.com.
SAS in School
SAS demonstrated its SAS in School program, a collection of Web-based exercises in the sciences.
One application showed a tool that students can use to better understand the behavior of enzymes. Students can change variables like temperature, pH and chemical concentration.
A variety of disciplines are covered at sasinschool.com.
If you need a skull, then Skulls Unlimited probably has either the real thing or a cast. The booth had a huge array of skulls:
For more information, see skullsunlimited.com.
Vernier sells dozens of different probes, data logging equipment and software for students across the educational spectrum. This setup, for example, shows oxygen and carbon dioxide sensors measuring gases coming from germinating seeds:
For more information, see vernier.com.
DNA Learning Center
The DNA Learning Center offers an extensive DNA education Web site -- anyone can learn about genetics, DNA, genetic engineering and so on from the Web site, and there are lots of other teacher resources as well.
For more information, see vector.cshl.org.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a large presence at the NSTA convention, demonstrating extensive free teaching materials around drinking water standards and clean drinking water.
For more information, see EPA's Drinking Water Site.