Human Hair

Scanning Electron Microscope

Posted on 31st May 2019

When Tom from Hitachi contacted us to see if the Rediscovery Centre would be interested in the use of their Scanning Electron Microscope (S.E.M.), it’s fair to say that the offer awakened child-like levels of excitement. Of course we would love to take it! What self-respecting fans of science wouldn’t? Hitachi loaned the Centre the Microscope for a three weeks and lots of school children got to see this powerful microscope in use. Given that the Rediscovery Centre has run so many educational workshops, the chance to harness the potential of such a wonderful tool with all the children and young people that we work with was impossible to turn down.

Raising awareness of STEAM topics with young people is right to the fore of what the Rediscovery Centre aims to do. Our Education Team go to great lengths to engage and enthuse children and young people in that area in the hope that doing so will encourage their love for the world around them as well as helps them to develop their critical faculties. It’s fair to say that the addition of Hitachi’s S.E.M. was an incredible addition to our arsenal in that regard!

With our gardens in full bloom, we took the opportunity to develop our Biodiversity workshop by including the S.E.M., harvesting some plant and animal samples (only dead insects were used!) and then asking our participants to guess which of the highly magnified images on the screen corresponded with the full-sized samples in front of them. I’ve included a couple of those images here – see if you can guess what it is that you are looking at.

The students were amazed and dumbfounded in equal measure. When you take that which you are so familiar with on a daily basis to the point of not even noticing it and are then shown it in a completely different light (it’s not light, of course; electrons are what give us these images!), it can be mind-bending. The true power of the S.E.M. lies not in its incredible precision but rather in the way that it allows us to view the world in ways that we could not otherwise see, opening up new vistas of reality that gives us the chance to imagine – how much further can we go?

The Microscope was on loan from Hitachi and the Rediscovery Centre was delighted to have been selected to be part of their STEAM outreach programme.