The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 9, 2012

New technology

Students prepare for ‘21st century’


DANVILLE — Biology and physics students Tuesday night demonstrated the future of science classes at Danville High School using brand new, cutting edge technology.

“We’re definitely getting our students ready for the 21st century,” said DHS science teacher Christopher Dryer.

The $39,000 project — dubbed the Einstein Project — provided new state-of-the-art equipment for the science department at DHS. It was funded by Danville Public School Foundation in partnership with Danville School District 118, Iroquois Federal Foundation, David and Sandi Wood, the Sargent-Welch Company, Anita Martin of the University of Illinois EnList Project and Danville Public School Foundation donors.

The new equipment showcased Tuesday night included 13-Vernier LabQuest interfaces, each with 15 sensors/probes for classroom or field experiments; 13 laptop computers; 12 Bunsen burners; six hot plates/stirrer sets; and 30 reusable dissecting sets.

“We’ve already been adapting curriculum to include the equipment,” said Kathy Hafner, a DHS science department head.

She said she believes the new equipment will motivate lower level students to become more interested in science.

In the biology classroom, freshmen Yakire Newcomb and Kerra Harper, both 14, used a laptop computer and scientific software to check and chart the blood pressure of Alice Payne, a retired District 118 principal and executive director of Laura Lee Fellowship House, and of David Wood, one of the donors who made the equipment purchase possible.

“Someone has to be the guinea pig,” Payne quipped.

“We want a good reading here,” Wood joked with Newcomb and Harper.

Harper said the new equipment has sparked a newfound interest in science for her.

“I usually don’t do science, but this makes science fun,” she said of the new equipment.

The next table over freshmen Zoe Thomas and Ronnie Oakley, both 14, measured the carbon dioxide given off by growing beans and of dry beans and charted it on a laptop computer.

“It’s cool because you wouldn’t think you could measure the carbon dioxide of something like that,” Thomas said.

In the physics classroom, senior Kristen Rew, 17, and junior Meha Patel, 16, demonstrated Newton’s Law of Gravity using sensors and a computer laptop.

“We’re using sensors that hook onto objects and into the laptop, and it takes the information and puts it right into the computer and creates a graph,” Rew explained.

For their demonstration, Rew and Patel measured the amount of force — or energy — needed to pick up a book bag from the floor as well as to pull a book bag along a ramp.

“We’re measuring force in Newtons, and we collected data on how much force it took to pull the book bag along a ramp,” Patel said. “We can store it (data) and compare it to how much force it took to pull the book bag up from the ground.

“It took 40 Newtons to pull the book bag up, but it took a lot less to pull it along the ramp,” Patel said.

Rew said the sensors and the computer program allow the students to learn how the principles of physics apply to them in everyday life.

The Einstein Project received its start from Dryer, who applied for a grant through the Danville Public School Foundation’s classroom grant program, which is supported by funds provided by the foundation’s donors.

“The collaboration demonstrated during this project was amazing,” said Bob Richard, executive director of the foundation. “The goal of the foundation and its donors is to help provide enhanced learning opportunities for the students attending Danville Public Schools, and the Einstein Project has done exactly that.

“We are very appreciative to everyone involved who has made this project possible,” he added.

Dryer initially applied with the foundation for a grant of about $8,000 to purchase a few pieces of science equipment, but the amount exceeded what is usually awarded by the foundation for classroom projects.

All was not lost, however. Richard told Dryer that the foundation would search for other grant opportunities that could help fund the equipment purchase.

After receiving input from DHS science department heads Beth Chamberlain and Kathy Hafner, the project was expanded to include an extensive upgrade of the high school’s science equipment that would allow students to be exposed to the latest learning technology.

The equipment — which will be used by all DHS science classes including biology, physics, chemistry and life sciences — allows students to collaborate in small groups that is typical of scientists working in the real world and to focus on relevant problem-solving scientific methods. The ultimate goal of the project is to encourage students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Sargent-Welch agreed to provide a 20 percent matching grant for any equipment purchased, and Iroquois Federal Foundation awarded $10,000 toward the project.

David and Sandi Wood made a donation specifically for the project, while District 118 purchased the laptop computers needed for the project. The foundation covered the remaining costs.

The U of I’s EnList Project funded the training on the new equipment for the DHS science teachers.

To support Projects

Anyone interested in helping to support the projects of the Danville Public School Foundation may contact executive director Bob Richard at 444-1044 or or visit the foundation’s website at