Evaluating Sands using Remotely-Operated Scanning Electron Microscope

Tuesday 3:00pm-3:20pm Northrop Hall: 116
Teaching Demonstration Part of Tuesday Session A


Mary Beck, Valencia Community College
Christopher Vidito, Florida International University


Participants will be encouraged to run the SEM/EDS and experience the ease of operation. We will use the EDS and the SEM to look at various sands and work through some of the questions students work on.

If attending this session, please bring an internet-capable device such as a smart phone, tablet, or laptop.


In this session, we will demonstrate how students can, in the classroom, use a remotely-accessed scanning electron microscope (SEM) and electron dispersion spectrometer (EDS) for course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) and inquiry-based learning. We will show how students can use the EDS to determine elemental makeup of rock/mineral fragments or sands and use this to identify minerals. We will also demonstrate how students can use the SEM to recognize quartz sand surface textures and use this to determine depositional environments and/or climate settings for various quartz sands. Participants will work through parts of several activities and receive access to these activities.

**If attending this session, please bring an internet-capable device such as a smart phone, tablet, or laptop.


Students in my earth science and physical geology classes remotely operate the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and the energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS) over the internet in course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) and inquiry-based learning activities. In place of traditional rock and mineral activities, students use reflective microscopes and the EDS to identify mineral constituents of various sands, both collected by students and sands included in the college's earth science collection. They also use the SEM, along with the Atlas of Quartz Sand Surface Textures (Krinsley and Doornkamp, 1973), to analyze quartz sand surface textures to determine depositional environments of these different sands. For the climate studies module, students use ice-rafted debris literature to analyze quartz sand grains from ODP sediment cores to determine climate-related, ice-rafting mechanisms for transport and deposition of sands to the ocean floor.

Why It Works

Valencia College has a highly diverse student population and is a Hispanic-Serving Institution. This project has allowed me to introduce non-majors to methods of doing earth science in an inclusive and engaging manner in a non-lab setting. Additionally, this type of project works very well for 2-YR and 4-YR colleges with limited resources and equipment and provides an opportunity for students at these institutions to participate in high-impact activities. So far, students have been very responsive to using the instrumentation and they rate the SEM/EDS activities very highly.

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