Curiosity Cube Helps Stoke Lowell Students’ Excitement for Science
LOWELL -- Students at Moody Elementary School pressed virtual reality goggles up to their faces Wednesday afternoon outside the Curiosity Cube, a traveling science lab inside a shipping container.
They were in a different, much smaller, world -- the inside of a cell.
“You know what’s inside of vesicles?” one of the volunteer instructors, an employee at MilliporeSigma, asked.
“Jokes?” a student said
Not jokes, according to the instructor. Vesicles, a type of large enclosed structure that exist both inside and outside cells can contain “garbage.”
“What?” said Michael White, a third-grader.
The group continued to a lesson about another structure, ribosomes, which one student noted looks a bit like a burger. After that, they talked about the nucleus. Eventually, the demonstration zoomed out to space.
“It felt cool (being inside a cell),” said Maryam Ismael, also in third grade. “But when I went to space it was scary.”
The station was one of several at the traveling Curiosity Cube sponsored by MilliporeSigma, a global life science company with about 1,700 employees in the state.
“The students are learning all about the superpower of the cell,” said Curiosity Cube Coordinator Rebecca Dowd.
The cube is visiting locations in the Boston-area this month, including a stop at Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell last weekend. A planned stop at Shaughnessy Elementary School in Lowell was canceled earlier this month due to the weather.
MilliporeSigma covers the cost of visits and employees from nearby company locations lead the demonstrations.
On Wednesday students in third, fourth and fifth grade at Moody Elementary visited the cube. In addition to the virtual reality goggles, they learned about 3D printing, programmed robots in an exercise to understand how cells communicate and looked through microscopes to identify different types of cells.
“Our goal is to promote curiosity,” Dowd said. “There is a gap in workforce in those STEM fields and we want students to understand that they can be the next generation of scientists.”
Dowd said the Curiosity Cube sends schools optional preliminary lessons before the visits and asks each child to write down a question before they leave the cube.
One student asked how many cells are in the body. Another asked do cells have cells in them. A third asked why are cells in everything.
Dowd said instructors send responses to the most common questions to teachers after the visit.
Maryam and Michael said they both like science class, but they’re not sold on a STEM career.
Maryam wants to be an artist. Michael, who is also enrolled in an after-school coding club, wants to be a police officer. He already has some experience.
“It’s my fifth year being a police officer for Halloween,” he said.
Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins.