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Name of Collaboratory :




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URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

Operational   Start Date : 1999 End Date : Info Last Updated : Fri, Dec 3 2010 6:00pm PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Shared Instrument  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :

  Expert Consultation, Virtual Learning Community  

Domain(s) :

  biology, electron microscopy  

Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


The Bugscope project is an educational outreach program for K-12 classrooms. The project provides a resource to classrooms so that they may remotely operate a scanning electron microscope to image insects at high magnification. The microscope is remotely controlled in real time from a classroom computer over the Internet using a Java-enabled web browser. Bugscope provides a state-of-the-art microscope resource for teachers that can be readily integrated into classroom activities. The Bugscope project provides a low-cost, sustainable model for research groups to support K-12 educations outreach projects.

Staff members in the Beckman Institute's multi-user microscopy suite donate their time to run up to 3 live Bugscope sessions a week. Schools apply online and pay nothing to participate.

A live Bugscope session typically runs about an hour and is scheduled to allow the teacher to participate during his/her class period. Teachers can choose to login from a single machine, connected to a projector, or allow students to login individually or in groups on their own computers. The live interface allows all participants to see the latest images coming from the microscope, ask questions via the built-in chat, and have the opportunity to control the microscope.

Teachers have the opportunity to send in insect specimens their classrooms collect to be viewed during their live session or they can use samples from what's available in Bugscope's collection.

Bugscope is a successor to Chickscope, and is designed to be less expensive to run than that earlier project.


Access to Instruments :

  scanning electron microscope (FEI XL-30 ESEM FEG microscope through a web browser) at Beckman Institute available online through Interactive Remote Microscopy Application (IRMA) java client, developed for this project (ESEM Image Observer and the ESEM Scope Controller, plus custom Chat client).  

Access to Information Resources :

  All of the chat lines and images from a live connection are archived on the Bugscope website in a "members page" automatically created for each session. Anyone can search the archives for images and chat records matching their interests.

The project also makes use of web forms for submitting applications, and shared online databases for managing sessions.

Access to People as Resources :

  consultation from Beckman staff, one IU undergrad who does sample preparation and presets interesting spots on the sample (moving to preset spots is a function built into the IRMA client).  

Funding Agency or Sponsor :

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company

Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:
Funding for Bugscope is currently provided by Submeta . Previous Bugscope funding was provided by the Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company. Support for purchasing the ESEM was provided by the National Science Foundation and The Beckman Institute. Additional support was provided by the IBM Shared University Research Program.

Organizations with Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
   Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

Notes on Participants/Organizations:


Communications Technology Used :

  The IRMA software for remote access and control of the electron microscope was developed for this project at Beckman. A new non-java interface is available called CGIRMA.

Technical Capabilities :

  Management of technical resources
Access control/login facilities
Support for transition between synch and asynch
Workflow management, Shared calendars
Asynchronous object sharing
Index/metadata, General search capability, Vetted knowledge based of multiple authors, Common file space, Data stream capture
Asynchronous conversation
Web forms, Email
Synchronous object sharing
Instrument monitoring, Shared instrument control, Share visualization
Synchronous conversation
Instant messaging/chat
  Key Articles :  

Carragher, B., & Potter, C. S. (1998). The world wide laboratory: remote and automated access to imaging instrumentation. In Impact of Advances in Computing and Communications Technologies on Chemical Science and Technology: Report of a Workshop. Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, National Research Council. (pp. 141-153). Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.

Potter, C. S., Carragher, B., Carroll, L., Conway,C., Grosser, B., Hanlon, J., et al. (2000). Bugscope: The second year of a sustainable remote microscope project for K-12 education outreach. In Bailey, G. W. (Ed.). Proceedings of Microscopy and Microanalysis 2000. (pp. 1160-1161). New York: Springer.

Potter, C. S., Carragher, B., Stone, D., Thakkar, U., Grosser, B., Hanlon, J., et al. (1999). Bugscope: A sustainable Web-based telemicroscopy project for K-12 classrooms. In Bailey, G. W. (Ed.). Proceedings of Microscopy and Microanalysis 1999. (pp. 514-515). New York: Springer.

Thakkar, U., Bruce, B. C., Hogan, M. C., & Williamson, J. (2001). Extending literacy through participation in new technologies. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 45(3), 212-219.


Project-reported performance data :

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