The BioBus research grade mobile science lab (a refurbished partially solar- and biofuel-powered 1974 transit bus with over $100,000 of microscopes) and the BioBase research grade community science lab give 30,000 students annually the chance to feel the excitement of making a scientific discovery. Through our STEM programs taught by PhD and Masters-level scientists, we help to generate interest among and empower New York City youth to create the next generation of scientists.
Since our first students boarded the BioBus in 2008, we have been on the road teaching for over 950 days, giving almost 150,000 people at more than 500 schools and community events the opportunity to work side-by-side with professional scientists and explore their environment using research-grade microscopes normally found only in top-tier laboratories. Almost every day of the school year, the BioBus parks in front of a school, giving students the chance to use a phase-contrast video microscope to make movies of crawling amoeba, use a scanning electron microscope to see a fly eye, and visualize glowing, streaming plant chloroplasts using a fluorescence microscope. Students work alongside research scientists that form the BioBus staff as well as volunteers ranging from students from local colleges and universities to Nobel Prize winner Martin Chalfie to Bill Nye “the Science Guy.” Students from even the most poorly-performing schools leave the bus with a new appreciation for how “cool” science is, encouraged by their positive interactions with diverse scientist role-models, with many students proclaiming, “I want to be a scientist!” after their experience. Quantitative data shows dramatic, positive changes in attitudes towards science amongst BioBus participants. Financial aid from our generous community of donors ensures the the BioBus is able to spend over 65% of its time cultivating science excitement in the most under-resourced, high-poverty communities in the NYC metropolitan area.
The BioBase open it’s doors in 2014, providing students with a space to conduct in-depth research projects using the same research-grade microscopes alongside PhD and Masters-level scientists. Students, typically grade four through high school, visit the BioBase weekly for a semester or longer or for a week long summer camp, with topics including local urban ecology, art and science, and research of the students’ choice. We offer after school, weekend, and school break classes, as well as internships, school trips, and community events. BioBase students receive individual mentorship from practicing research scientists as they develop their own hypothesis-driven experiments. These experiences act as the first steps along a student’s path towards a STEM career and, together with the BioBus, create a positive science community that can foster and support desire for and commitment to long-term science practice. Many students return for multiple BioBase programs and bring their families to events.