Robert Hooke engineered a better microscope and an accurate clock.
Isaac Newton is credited with the invention of the reflecting telescope.
Robert Boyle's experiments required the development of a vacuum pump.
The practice of observational science demands good instruments; how can you tell how fast the ball rolls without a way to accurately count the seconds?
Four centuries of invention have supplied scientists with a large array of technologies that make modern scientific investigation possible.
Unfortunately, these technologies are mostly available at the high end and that unfortunately also means not in schools.
This doesn't mean that the technology for schools is not available, but it is expensive, especially for schools that serve economically challenged communities.
Komal Dadlani, who was born in Chile where only two out of every ten high schools has a science lab, was fortunate enough to graduate from one that did and thus was able to go on to a university and graduate with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry.
To share her good fortune, she searched for a way to provide the opportunity for a science education with others.
Her "ah ha!" moment came with the realization that while schools don't have well-equipped labs, large proportions (between one-third and more than half) of their students do have smart phones.
The development of the smartphone, first with the iPhone from Apple and then from a host of vendors, has meant that technologies that were once available only to high-end users like NASA are integrated into smartphones.
Magnetometers make the phone's compass possible; proximity sensors signal the phone's operating system when the phone is placed next to the ear to take or make a phone call. Quite ordinary smartphones have gyroscopes, photo-detectors, accelerometers, barometers, thermometers, all the technologies that make them "smart."
It was a matter of writing software to liberate the technologies from their routine tasks so they can be used as lab tools.
Komal and her team is now in the U.S. in the process of creating a new business which they call Lab4U.
"We leverage these sensors and design experiments," she explains in an April 7 article in People magazine.
They have released two apps (both available for both IOS and Android), one for physics and one for chemistry.
One (which i have installed on my relatively old iPhone 5) is Lab4Physics.
Once you create a free account, you have access to the camera, the accelerometer, the sonometer, and the speedometer which now can be used to capture and graph physics data. You can also "play physics" and do experiments in movement, force and energy, and sounds.
There is also Lab4Chemistry which uses software to transform your smartphone into a colorimeter that allows for the calculation of concentrations of chemical solutions and to use spectrophotometry.
The company is still a startup and not established as yet but it demonstrates a key idea that has driven STEM for four centuries: "it's not strength. It's not intelligence. It's ADAPTABILITY TO CHANGE" that makes new things possible.
Crunch Base: Komal Dadlani. Retrieved from https://www.crunchbase.com/person/komal-dadlani#/entity
Toyota Mothers of Invention: Retrieved from http://paidpost.nytimes.com/toyota/mothers-of-invention-presented-by-women-in-the-world.html
Dr. John Holton
Dr. John Holton joined the S²TEM Centers SC in July of 2013, as a research associate with an emphasis on the STEM literature including state and local STEM plans from around the nation.