Limestone to Unveil High-Tech Duke Energy Science Lab on Feb. 26th

witsduke-webLimestone College will unveil its Duke Energy Science Lab during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, February 26th, at 10:30 a.m.

The event will showcase high-tech mobile computing equipment that has transformed the lab into one akin to those seen on the popular "CSI" television series.

The lab is located in room 235 of the College's Hamrick Hall of Science. Purchase of the equipment was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation in support of the school's annual Women in Technology and Science (WITS) Conference.

Limestone female faculty and students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education will be on-hand to demonstrate how the various pieces of equipment can be utilized. Among the items to be featured and demonstrated 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" since interactive participation by students is required. The Smart Board will be placed on a rolling cart so that it can be utilized in several classrooms and labs.

The 2013 WITS Conference is scheduled for Friday, March 1st, and will attract approximately 110 women from high schools in Cherokee, Spartanburg, and Union counties. The equipment will be used to engage WITS participants through experiments and exercises in STEM education. 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.

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.

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."