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A Chemistry Department’s Epic Transformation

LabQuest 2 and LabQuest Viewer Established in North Park University’s New Science Laboratories

LabQuest 2 with a Sound Level Meter measuring the accoustics after sound cloud installation

The Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life

North Park University, located in Chicago, Illinois, recently added a three-story 101,000-square-foot science building, named The Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life. The new building fully integrates LabQuest 2 and the Connected Science System into its laboratories.

“When I came to North Park [University] in 2007, the department had inadequate facilities. Despite strong teaching, the department was small with only two faculty and averaging about one major per year,” says Jonathan Rienstra-Kiracofe, Professor of Chemistry. “My goal was to transform the department into the chemistry department that North Park and its students desired. We’ve come a long way in 7 years. Vernier LabQuests have been an important part of our transformation.”

When the original LabQuest was released, North Park University purchased the interface for use in its chemistry courses. “It was an immediate hit with the students,” Dr. Rienstra-Kiracofe adds.

In 2011, Dr. Rienstra-Kiracofe worked with a Vernier specialist, Matt Anthes-Washburn, to display the screens of the original LabQuest interfaces onto a computer with USB adapters and LanSchool Software, which were then displayed on a high-definition television.

“In principle the smart lab worked, allowing me to display the screen of any of 12 LabQuests being used in the lab. Pedagogically, this enhanced my teaching, allowing me to teach from an enlarged display of a LabQuest screen and to show students how to perform a task on the LabQuest or to select a particularly good (or bad) graph from a student user and display that for the class to see,” Dr. Rienstra-Kiracofe explained. “With the release of LabQuest 2 and the LabQuest Viewer program, we knew we could implement a much more robust and interactive smart lab system.”

For the past two years, IT staff Steve Clark, Jeff Lundblad, and David Frisk worked diligently with science faculty members to implement the wireless technology by configuring Wi-Fi access and planning the AV technology that enables the entire system to work.

The school specifically designed their labs to take advantage of the LabQuest 2 and the Connected Science System. Laboratories for general, organic, and advanced chemistry courses are equipped with LabQuest 2 and a variety of probes and sensors, including the Mini GC and the Polarimeter. Each lab features an interactive Sharp HDTV that allows a student or instructor to control LabQuest Viewer directly from the large screen.

Dr. Isabel Larraza uses LabQuest Viewer during a gas chromatography experiment

Dr. Isabel Larraza uses LabQuest Viewer during a gas chromatography experiment.

“The Vernier system was an awesome system to experience,” says Andrea Diugan, a first-year chemistry major at North Park University. “Having the LabQuests and connected HDTV display has definitely aided in our learning because it not only gave us the opportunity to share our results with other students and our professor, but also provided a way to learn how to analyze our results quickly and accurately.”

Students can use iPad® tablets, provided in the laboratory by cart, to share data from the LabQuest 2 and analyze their results. Wireless printing has also been added to these laboratories, allowing students to print directly from their LabQuest 2. In addition, two biology laboratories are equipped with LabQuest 2, iPad tablets, and touch-capable high definition televisions.

“The whole system is truly beautiful and a joy to teach with,” says Dr. Rienstra-Kiracofe. “Most anyone I have demonstrated the system to has been blown away with the technology, but most importantly, I can now teach much more efficiently and effectively.”


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