P771: Electronics as a platform for innovation in analytical chemistry
The analytical curriculum at Penn State has developed the Small, Mobile Instruments for Laboratory Enhancement (SMILE) program which meets a national need for chemistry instructors to effectively incorporate active-learning techniques and strategies in the academic laboratory. The project brings together physics, chemistry, and electronics in a novel way to create an exciting collection of interdisciplinary STEM modules that require students to build and use rugged, low-cost, and low-power instruments thus providing students a peek inside the “black box”. The semester-long projects provide an intensive guided-inquiry learning experience and also incorporate a service-learning component to the curriculum. To-date, the SMILE initiative has created a handful of low-maintenance, low-operating cost, mobile instruments including a bar-code scanner, an electrostatic lifter, a static NMR probe that is compatible with an existing Bruker NMR spectrometer, a colorimeter, two types of fluorimeters, a Karl-Fisher apparatus, a dissolved oxygen probe, a conductivity meter (currently being used as part of a water quality educational initiative in Ghana), high-pressure liquid chromatography columns, CE-chip, and a cyclic voltammeter – all of which cost between $50 and $180 to build. A number of instruments continue to be developed, such as a GC-FID, a temperature-gradient gel electrophoresis unit, a portable nitroaromatic explosives detector, a photoacoustic/ piezoelectric cell, and a magnetic susceptibility balance. The program has been adopted by several institutions from the middle school level through university. SMILE was specifically developed to be a low operating cost initiative which can be implemented and sustained without external funding.