$50,000 From Duke Energy Foundation Enables Limestone Science Conference To Go High-Tech

witsduke-webWith an emphasis on mobile computing, a $50,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation  will be used to transform a Limestone science lab into one akin to those seen on the popular "CSI" television series. 

The equipment will be used for the first time with participants of the College's Women in Technology and Science Conference on March 1st. WITS participants will be engaged through experiments and exercises in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

A ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate the Duke Energy Science Lab and showcase the new equipment will be held on Tuesday, February 26, at 10:30 a.m.

Nearly 100 young women from five area high schools in Cherokee, Union, and Spartanburg counties will be invited to attend the day-long conference, which is scheduled for March 1st. Participants will be mentored by Limestone's female STEM faculty and students through a series of mathematics, computer science, chemistry, biology, and athletic training workshops.

WITS participants are also eligible for Limestone's recently announced McMillan Scholarship. The scholarships are designed specifically for young women from South Carolina who have a high school grade point average of 3.0 or better, and are worth $8,000 annually for a total of $32,000.


Limestone Biology Professor Dr. Suzanne Lindley (right) works with participants during the 2012 WITS Conference. WITS participants are eligible for Limestone's new McMillan Scholarships.

"We are proud to partner with the Duke Energy Foundation and are most appreciative of the commitment they've shown through their generous gift," said Limestone President Dr. Walt Griffin. "Working together through the WITS Conference, our main objective is to create a STEM pipeline from area high schools to Limestone College and ultimately to industry and corporations in the Carolinas."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the best career paths leading to high paying jobs are in the STEM fields, which are projected to grow by 17 per cent by 2018. Employers, however, struggle to find qualified female candidates with degrees in STEM disciplines. In fact, a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce stated that women will fill fewer than 25 per cent of STEM jobs.

"At Duke Energy, we have a commitment to champion economic development in all of the communities we serve," said Rick Jiran, District Manager for the region that includes Limestone College. "We are proud to support programs such as this that help expose young people to technical careers and encourage them to keep those skills in the region to help drive future economic development."

Among the high-tech items that will outfit the lab via the Duke Energy Foundation grant are:

• A Comparison Microscope
"Often used in law enforcement forensics, the user can examine two different specimens at once," explained Dr. Jane Watkins, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Limestone. "For example, a law enforcement scientist could compare a strand of hair from a suspect and a hair found at a crime scene simultaneously rather than having to rely on memory while switching between the two."

• A FlashGel System for DNA study
"The FlashGel System slashes the time for DNA analysis from hours to minutes," said Dr. Watkins. "Before the FlashGel came along, DNA analysis was mostly accurate but would include multiple steps and time to complete. With FlashGel, a student can simply load samples and obtain data in as little as two minutes."

• Trauma Full Body Manikin
"During the athletic training portion of the 2012 WITS Conference, we focused on interactive wound care through a variety of scenarios but supplies were limited," said Vanessa Fulbright, Chair of Limestone's Department of Physical Education and Coordinator of the College's Athletic Training Program. "This rescue manikin will enable us to replicate a wide range of real trauma conditions that are likely to confront the rescuer. Its features include resiliency and weight of a human body for realistic practice in transport, rescue, and lifesaving procedures."

• Wireless Vernier System Probes with iPad Minis
"These Vernier Probes can be used to measure just about anything," said Dr. Watkins. "And because they use Bluetooth technology, they can be taken out into the field to collect data which is then wirelessly transmitted to the iPad minis for examination."

• 70-inch Aquos Smart Board
Utilizing touch-screen technology, this 70-inch Smart Board will ensure that there is no such thing as a "passive class" as they require interactive participation by students. The Smart Board will be placed on a rolling cart so that it can be utilized in several classrooms and labs.

Students already enrolled at Limestone will benefit from the Duke Energy Foundation grant as well by having full access to the equipment during regular academic terms.

Dr. Watkins says one of the reasons there are so few women in science and technology fields is a problem of self-efficacy. "Many of the female students I've advised have said that they do not feel encouraged or qualified to pursue technology and health degrees, but their test scores show otherwise. Many of these students may not have had their hands on technological equipment, including gadgets, as often as their male counterparts but data does indicate that once women get over that initial hurdle, they actually surpass males."