Science and Education Under One Roof

The Ars Electronica Center in Linz

Smartphones, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence – digitalization has found its way into our everyday lives. But how does artificial intelligence “think”? What possibilities and opportunities does digitalization offer? And, most importantly, what role do human beings play? The Ars Electronica Center in Linz is dedicated to these questions.

Since 1979, Ars Electronica has been searching for the interfaces between art, technology, and society. The center describes itself as a museum of the future where fusions of art, science, and technology are displayed and developed. Visitors can choose to perform experiments in the fields of biotechnology, genetic engineering, neurology, robotics, prosthetics, and new media art, as well as learn about how we will communicate in the future and what these changes mean for us and our society. In 2009, the center was expanded in the run-up to Linz’s year as the European Capital of Culture, and its contents and exhibitions were tailored to focus on the life sciences.

Cooperation with international industry

The Ars Electronica Center doesn’t just deal with these topics on a theoretical level. The FUTURELAB is the museum’s research and development center. Approximately 40 developers work together with leading international industrial companies on self-driving cars, robot vacuum cleaners, robot mops, and more. Prototypes that are produced here are then put into distribution by the cooperation partners.

The greatest challenge is keeping up with the latest technological developments. A few years ago, the first and only 3D printer in Upper Austria was here at the Ars Electronica Center. Today, the focus is on artificial intelligence.

Gerfried Stocker, Artistic Director
Gerfried Stocker shows Anke Koenen how artificial intelligence can write texts independently.

The Ars Electronica Center’s role as an educational institution

The center’s educational dimension is at the heart of its concept. At peak times, up to 3,500 children, teenagers, and adults flock to the museum every day to create a virtual zoo, produce their own videos for YouTube, or take part in anatomy lessons in the children’s research lab, the Deep Space video and sound venue, or the center’s other labs. The rallying cry here is “try it out for yourself!”

Don’t just look, touch – at the Ars Electronica Labs

The Ars Electronica Center doesn’t want people to see the laboratory as a detached work cell. In order to discover and shape the world, it is important for the laboratory to be an integrated element and a connective hub for creativity, technology, society, and science. To this end, the Ars Electronica Labs cover four thematic areas. In the CitizenLab, visitors can explore how every individual can make their life sustainable. The SecondBodyLab provides insights into the world of prosthetics. In the MaterialLab, everything revolves around innovative methods of handling materials. Visitors can immerse themselves in the world of materials research and experiment with different production methods. The BioLab focuses on the human organism and the processes of life that take place at the cellular and molecular levels. Current scientific methods allow us not only to observe and visualize biological processes but also to intervene in them in a variety of ways.

You never know whether you’re just a drop in the ocean or the drop that causes the barrel to overflow.

Gerfried Stocker, Artistic Director

For precisely this reason, the Ars Electronica Center also has a fully equipped BioLab with an S1 security level. As part of workshops and guided tours, visitors can make the smallest biological structures and processes – such as those of a cell – visible. In the BioLab they can research CRISPR/Cas9, the isolation of DNA, the cultivation of cell cultures, and other investigative methods from different areas of biology.

This is made possible by the impressive laboratory equipment: two ZEISS Primo Star upright light microscopes, a ZEISS Primovert iLED cell culture microscope, incubators, a safety workbench, a ZEISS Axio Scope.A1 fluorescence microscope, and even a small electron microscope. The devices are in continuous operation and are also used intensively by laypersons. Two laboratory staff oversee the smooth operation and use of the equipment. Andreas, a biotechnologist, and Elisabeth, a pharmaceutical chemist, have both the background knowledge and enthusiasm required. Above all, the aim is to make visitors aware of the positive and negative sides of – for example – genetic engineering. After all, only things that people can see and experience themselves touch them emotionally. At the end of the day, it’s about trust.

Always worth a visit

If we can give 10 percent of our visitors a decent understanding of artificial intelligence, we will have achieved a major goal.

Andreas Bauer, Museum Director

And it’s certainly an achievable goal. The Ars Electronica Center promises exciting and inspiring excursions into the futuristic fields of artificial intelligence and neuroscience, robotics and autonomous mobility, and genetic engineering and biotechnology. Ars Electronica is a globally unique platform for art, technology, and society, and a visit is worth every second.

The Ars Electronica Center in Linz offers interactive stations, works of art, research projects, large-scale projections, and laboratories for every age group.

ZEISS technology featured in this article

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Nanotechnologists

ZEISS electron microscope used in nanotechnology outreach program to local high school and community college students in greater San Diego area

Opportunities for careers in nanotechnology are increasing in many different fields, including: electronics and semiconductors, energy capture and storage, textiles and polymer materials science, auto and aerospace industries, and medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Already there are challenges in educating and training a large enough workforce to support these many industries.

Dr. Yves Theriault is developing a state-of-the-art educational outreach program at the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI) at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). His goal is to create awareness about nanotechnology among the high school and community college student populations in the Southern California areas starting with San Diego County. The program also includes nanotechnology curriculum development. By doing so, he hopes to contribute to the increase of the nanotechnology skilled workforce in the United States.

A live view of the microscope in the classroom

Part of this program has included developing online tools to enable remote access to UCSD’s highest resolution scanning electron microscope, ZEISS Sigma 500. This microscope is typically reserved for use only by highly trained scientists from UCSD or local industries in the greater San Diego area for advanced nanotechnology research.

This is the online interface where students engage with SDNI staff and gain remote access to the scanning electron microscope, ZEISS Sigma 500.

Educators and their students can access the microscope from their classrooms by navigating to SDNI’s webpage. At prearranged lesson times, they will be connected online to a SDNI staff operator and provided with a live view of the microscope. Lessons are guided by the SDNI staff and students can operate the microscope remotely, using on screen controls.

Students can experience firsthand what it might be like to work in nanotechnology, hopefully inspiring some to continue their career developments in this direction.

Community college students during an online lesson

“Being in their classrooms, students can remotely explore sciences and nature at the nanoscale. It is an amazing experience and shows the magic of electron microscopy”, Dr. Theriault said.

Dr. Theriault is interested in recruiting educators in San Diego and Riverside counties to join his program and welcomes new applicants. To contact Dr. Theriault for more information about his program, email: ytheriault@ucsd.edu

Learn more about SDNI

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African Students Fascinated by the Possibilities of Confocal Microscopy

Microscopy and image analysis course at University of Ghana

Recently, the two-week course “Introduction to fluorescent microscopy and image analysis techniques” was held at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at University of Ghana at Legon. It helped 15 Master’s and PhD students from different universities in Ghana and Senegal gain a basic understanding of light microscopy techniques and computerized image analysis. The course consisted of both theoretical as well as practical sessions and was designed to enable students to use these applications in their biological and biomedical research.

The participants appreciated the opportunities that have become available to them with the first confocal microscope to be located in West Africa.

Basic optical principles, different light microscopy techniques, appropriate applications, benefits and limitations as well as advanced microscopy methods such as superresolution were the subject of the course. Participants gained practical experience on different sample preparation approaches. Hands-on sessions on ZEISS LSM 800 with Airyscan were also included. The participants gained awareness of the different image analysis approaches and software that can be used and what they can achieve.

“We received a high number of applications for the course and those students who were selected showed a great level of enthusiasm. Both verbal and written feedback after the course emphasized the excitement of the students for the techniques they had learnt about”, said Petra Stockinger, Scientific Officer at University of Gothenburg and one of the organizers of the course.

The participants of the microscopy and image analysis course at University of Ghana showed a great level of enthusiasm.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to be part of the training. I really enjoyed every bit of it and I learnt a lot of valuable skills.

Do more collab(oration)s with African universities. It would be great if you could offer this kind of opportunity to other African students.

Course participants

“For many students, it was the first time they used fluorescent microscopy and they were actually able to directly observe cellular features of trypanosoma parasites as well as of different stages of malaria infection with high resolution”, Petra said, summarizing the success of the course. “Finally, the students spent some time considering how the approaches they have learnt about could be applied to their current and future research.”

More information on ZEISS confocal microscopes

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Organizing and Managing Digital Classrooms Efficiently

New software module ZEISS Labscope Teacher

Today’s interconnected world of digital media is changing how students learn. A digital classroom from ZEISS creates an interactive learning environment where these digital natives feel at home. Microscopy is much more fun, and having fun while learning is bound to inspire better results. The challenge as a teacher is to manage this technology and maximize its value in today’s digital classroom. That’s where the new software module ZEISS Labscope Teacher comes in:

It expands the existing ZEISS Labscope installation and puts the lecturer in charge of all connected microscopes in the network of the digital classroom while they move freely around the classroom. It lets the teacher define working groups, send group-specific tasks, and share digital information such as documents or presentations, thereby fostering teamwork. The master device makes it easy to keep everybody on track. The lecturer only needs to define the classroom layout once. Simple reloading to start the lesson saves valuable teaching time.

ZEISS Labscope Teacher helps teachers to actively organize their lessons and manage the digital classroom efficiently.

Engaged and focused learning

With ZEISS Labscope Teacher, it’s easy to follow every individual’s progress so lecturers can adapt their teaching to suit each one. They’ll see thumbnails of all their activity at a glance. This lets them keep an eye on everybody and, where needed, alter image settings remotely. It’s just as easy to share the information.

ZEISS Labscope Teacher generates a private cloud space automatically, allowing teachers to show and discuss each student’s work on a monitor and share results in real-time.

More information on ZEISS Labscope Teacher

More information on Digital Classrooms with ZEISS microscopes

With a ZEISS Digital Classroom, the teacher is able to:

Directly access each student’s live microscope image via an iPad or Windows PC Snap images and record videos Alter and correct image settings remotely Define working groups and send group-specific tasks Move freely around classroom and at the same time see through all of the eyepieces Select any student’s image and show it with a projector or TV screen to the class Discuss working methods/details with individual students while the rest can observe it Share results via email, social, or your automatically set up private cloud space

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The Amazing World of Nature’s Hidden Life

Stereo microscopes for Eden Project in Cornwall

Cornwall, the extreme southwestern peninsula of England that has the longest stretch of continuous coastline in Britain, is one of the sunniest and most scenic areas in the UK. In the heart of Cornwall, under a shining cluster of gigantic bubbles, perhaps the most important garden in the world is growing: The Eden Project is nestled in a huge crater wherein massive Biomes – housing the largest rainforest in captivity, stunning plants, exhibitions and stories – serve as a backdrop to striking contemporary gardens, summer concerts and exciting year-round family events. The area sounds like paradise to lots of people: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, the restored Victorian garden sitting atop a ravine filled with sub-tropical plants, is spiritually linked to Eden. The Eden Project is an educational charity that connects us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future.

Invisible Worlds

The newest addition to the Eden Project is the Invisible Worlds exhibition that features Infinity Blue – an interactive, dynamic artwork that pays homage to the greatest bacteria of them all – cyanobacteria, the first organisms to effect oxygenic photosynthesis. The exhibition describes the things we cannot necessarily see yet which have the most profound effects on our world and our lives. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things, the exhibition explores that which is too small, too fast, too slow, too fast or too far away in space and time to be easily recognized, acknowledged and understood.

Invisible Worlds: View into the exhibition hall

ZEISS stereo microscopes provide invaluable insights

Within the lab area of the Invisible Worlds exhibition, there are – housed in protective casings designed for Eden by USFOR – four ZEISS Stemi 305 stereo microscopes, provided for public use, which can be connected via WiFi to the large screen at the center of the back wall. These are an incredible tool for engaging the public – visitors of all ages – and demonstrating to them the intricacy and beauty that we cannot normally see. From the segmentation of a millipede to the multiple lenses of a fly’s eye, the microscopes are an invaluable resource for the narrators hosting the exhibition, as well as a wonderful experience for visitors, many of whom have never used a microscope in this environment before.

ZEISS stereo microscopes at the Invisible Worlds exhibition provide invaluable insights into the beauty we normally cannot see.

ZEISS stereo microscopes at the Invisible Worlds exhibition provide invaluable insights into the beauty we normally cannot see.

We’ve had some incredible moments and a lot of conversations about what an opportunity the microscopes provide for young and old alike to examine a variety of samples from perspectives that they would never otherwise see. Visitors have been fascinated and disturbed by the remains of partially-digested insects, taken from inside carnivorous plants; awed and excited by the sight of living tardigrades munching their way through algae and clearly visible to all on the large screen we have.

Katie Hughes, Narrator for Invisible Worlds

The connection of scope to screen has proven especially valuable:

A large group of school children came through the lab, vying for position around the four stereo microscopes. To facilitate an experience that they could all share – a quick, ad-hoc microscopy demonstration that they all had the chance to see and that didn’t impact negatively on their tight timetable – was a simple proposition, and an effective one.

With the exhibition in its early stages, there will be more opportunities to utilize the ZEISS Stemi 305 microscopes, whether with school groups or individual visitors, to amaze and enthuse, and to spark many a sparkling discussion about bringing the invisible – the unseen yet so important – into view.

More information on ZEISS stereo microsopes

About Eden Project

Partnering with like-minded organizations, companies, communities, research and conservation groups, Eden Project International aims to establish collaborative Eden projects across the globe, to help deliver social and ecological benefits. The Eden Project first opened in a disused china clay quarry in 2001. In the same way, new projects focus on the big global challenges as defined by their specific localities, such as soil, water, food, and biodiversity. ‘Eden’s mission is to explore our dependence on the natural world, to use that understanding to excite people into delivering transformation where they live and to ask really serious questions about what a great future might look like for all of us.’ Tim Smit, Co-Founder of the Eden Project, and Executive Chairman of Eden Project International A variety of international partners shape and establish new Edens around the world: in China (Qingdao, Yan’an, Sheng Lu Vineyard), Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and the United States.

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Simulated Ocular Surgery on High Fidelity Model Eyes

Stereo microscopes for teaching future ophthalmologists

Ophthalmologists require years of training and continuous practice to successfully master the skills needed to perform ophthalmic surgery. Development of the fine motor skills and getting a feel for the ocular tissues are crucial parts of this training, but historically the only way of practicing these skills was in wet-labs using animal eyes or in the operating theatre during live surgery. However, over the last ten years, a combination of high fidelity model eyes, which replicate the look and feel of the human eye and Virtual Reality simulators, have enabled trainees to develop these skills away from patients and demonstrate their competence before they perform live surgery.

Ophthalmologists require years of training and continuous practice to successfully master the skills needed to perform ophthalmic surgery.

Simulated Ocular Surgery (SOS) with ZEISS stereo microscopes

John Ferris is the Head of the School of Ophthalmology in the South West of England and chaired the National Recruitment committee for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists for six years. He has a strong interest in surgical training and launched the Simulated Ocular Surgery (SOS) website in 2014. This website demonstrates how fidelity model eyes and virtual reality systems can be used to enhance the safety and efficacy of surgical training. He also launched the Simulation Gallery in 2017, which is linked to the SOS website and showcases different surgical teaching techniques from round the world.

Ferris had been looking for a portable microscope with an inbuilt camera system to facilitate the use of these simulation techniques. ZEISS Stemi 305 stereo microscopes now form an integral part of the pan-European training initiative that he is running with the French based pharmaceutical company Thea. Over the last 12 months, they have run eight large surgical workshops in the UK, Spain, France and Holland, with more planned for 2018. Enjoy some impressions of these “Digital Ophthalmic Classrooms” here.

Stereo microscopes generate three-dimensional images, provide large object fields and allow extended working distances. Copyright: Simulation Gallery

Like learning a musical instrument

The aim of the Simulated Ocular Surgery project is to change the culture of ophthalmic surgical training across the globe, so that it is no longer acceptable for trainees to perform any part of an operation until they have demonstrated that they have the skills to do this competently and safely.

When a budding musician is starting to learn a new instrument, they will have a series of lessons and in between these lessons they practice what they have been taught. The difficulty ophthalmologists in training have is that it is difficult to practice new techniques unless they have access to dedicated wet-labs equipped with expensive operating microscopes. However, the ZEISS Stemi 305 stereo microscope has the potential to make ophthalmic surgical training much more like learning a musical instrument by enabling trainees to practice their skills at home or in a dry-lab on a daily basis. Furthermore, the fact that the trainee can record their practice sessions on an iPpad and then show these videos to the teacher is an added bonus.

ZEISS Stemi 305 stereo microscopes have become an integral part of the sea change in ophthalmic surgical training

This recording facility also promotes remote supervision, whereby trainees can be mentored by surgeons in a different country, a set-up that is currently being used in a large simulation project in South Africa.

ZEISS Stemi 305 stereo microscopes have become an integral part of this sea change in ophthalmic surgical training, thus helping to improve the safety and efficacy of training across the globe.

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The “Give a Schram Campaign”

ZEISS Primo Star microscopes for Lyon College

For 25 years, Mark Schram, Professor Emeritus of Biology at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, USA, had one dream: to equip an entire biology lab with new microscopes and related software. In January 2017 he started the “Give a Schram Campaign” to fund new microscopes for the biology department. And succeeded.

Though Dr. Schram lost his battle to cancer last year, the “Give a Schram Campaign” is still ongoing. It aims to raise $30,000 more to equip a lab with new dissecting microscopes.

I’ve thought about this project for many years – many of you know how I feel about the necessity of upgrading our microscopes. We have doubled the number of students needing to master microscopy without acquiring new instrumentation. My goal, with your help, is to equip an entire lab with new microscopes for the next generation of Lyon students.

Schram, discussing his hopes for the campaign’s success

ZEISS Primo Star microscopes for Lyon College

Thanks to the generous donations of college supporters who share his dream, Vashaw Scientific, a ZEISS dealer in the US, was able to equip the Lyon College biology department with 24 ZEISS Primo Star microscopes last month. Lyon’s biology professors use the instruments to teach a number of courses, including Principles of Biology II, Genetics, Microbiology, and Histology.

About Lyon College

Lyon College is a selective undergraduate liberal arts college located in the beautiful Ozark Mountains region. Founded in 1872, it is one of the oldest colleges in Arkansas, USA. Students come from everywhere: 70% from the state and the rest from all across the nation and several foreign countries.

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ZEISS Digital Classrooms for Medical Laboratory Technicians

Interactive techniques for laboratory investigation

The work of a medical laboratory technician is varied and vital to the quality of a patient’s care. Medical lab technicians (also referred to as MLTs, medical laboratory scientists/technologists or clinical laboratory science professionals) work behind the scenes as highly skilled scientists, performing tests that detect the absence or presence of disease. Results of the tests performed by these scientists are passed on to physicians so that they can treat patients and manage disease according to the findings.

With ZEISS microscopes and the imaging app Labscope, it is easy to create a digital classroom with a network of connected microscopes.

Approximately 70 percent of all diseases are detected through laboratory diagnostics, which makes it extremely important that every physician – and every patient – can rely on our graduates’ excellent training and meticulous work.

Christiane Maschek, Head of the School for Medical Laboratory Technicians Hannover

Preparing students for the challenges of their demanding profession

In Germany, training as a medical laboratory technician takes three years. The medical laboratory technician training program focuses on histology, clinical chemistry, microbiology and hematology, studying bodily fluids and tissue samples to detect pathogens. Other key aspects of the training include equipment and quality management. All of this makes the microscope one of the most important tools.

The work of a medical laboratory technician is varied and vital to the quality of a patient’s care. Medical lab technicians (also referred to as MLTs, medical laboratory scientists/technologists or clinical laboratory science professionals) work behind the scenes as highly skilled scientists, performing tests that detect the absence or presence of disease. Results of the tests performed by these scientists are passed on to physicians so that they can treat patients and manage disease according to the findings.

Gain more insights into Digital Classroom learning at Hannover Medical School:

Download your free copy of an application note on gram staining to differentiate between bacteria in medical microbiology

More information on ZEISS Digital Classroom

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Practical Experiments for Education in Biology

University of Jena and ZEISS publish microscopy booklet for students and prospective teachers

Together with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany, ZEISS has put together a microscopy manual for students and (future) teachers. The booklet contains practical experiments for education in biology. The English version is now available free of charge and can be downloaded here.

The co-initiator is Prof. Uwe Hossfeld, who has been advocating the teaching concept of practice-oriented research teaching and learning in biology for years.

Microscopy is an essential skill that biology teachers should master. In addition, students cannot only explore a whole new world in microscopy, but also train their skills and learn to deal with biological problems in a different way.

The fact that microscopy only appears as a peripheral area in the Thuringian curricula is a pity, especially with regard to the location. Precisely because we have ZEISS, one of the leading manufacturers of microscope systems here in Jena, it only makes sense to work together and update the current state of the art work with new findings from science and education to unite.

Prof. Uwe Hossfeld, University of Jena

To bring readers up to date, the first part of the booklet focuses on the basics of modern microscopes and how they work. The second part is followed by instructions for sample preparation, microscopic drawings and selected experiments.

The manual is suitable for beginners and specialists alike. A new element is the integration of modern technologies such as smartphone apps. This allows images from the integrated microscope camera to be transferred wirelessly to the display of a mobile phone and further processed there.

Download the free guide “Microscopy for Biology Education. Practical Experiments for Education in Biology”

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ZEISS Digital Classrooms at Universities

Interactive techniques for classroom experiments and rehearsals may upgrade your university

Microscopy is an essential part of the life and earth sciences at universities. Students use microscopes to gain deeper insight into preparing and examining human, animal or plant cells. For this, they need various microscopy techniques and software for image acquisition and documentation in their lectures. And this is where the Digital Classroom comes into play: connected ZEISS microscopes, the ZEISS imaging software Labscope and digital equipment such as tablets enable an interactive approach to learning and create a motivating and engaging atmosphere for students. They are also inspired by the possibility of working with the tools they use in their everyday lives at university.

The Digital Classroom provides a new learning and teaching experience.

Dynamic learning and teaching

Teachers can walk through the classroom and give real-time feedback while students can share what they are looking at with their classmates and explore their samples together. While the microscopic image is shared via WiFi or projected on a large screen, findings can be jointly discussed. Furthermore, teachers get the chance to point their students toward tiny structures and interesting details they might not yet have seen using the Pointer function in ZEISS Labscope.

Improving the quality of teaching

The interactive classroom offers me and the university a chance of giving a good educational experience to our students, e.g. we can project an image the student is seeing onto a screen. That way everyone can see this microscopic image. On the other hand I can constantly see what the students are seeing on my tablet. This allows me to help them even more.

Dr. Mark Ramsdale, the Director of Education at the Department of Biosciences at the University of Exeter, UK

Universities depend on student fees and funding – both being increasingly related to excellence in education, student’s choices and rankings. Offering information is not enough anymore – universities need to offer a vision how to engage, involve and reach students. “Both teaching and learning are much more fun in this environment. And when learning is fun, our students get better results and that’s what our university wants”, says Ramsey.

Gain more insights into Digital Classroom learning at the University of Exeter:

More information on the ZEISS Digital Classroom

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A Digital Classroom at the International Garden Exhibition in Berlin

School classes analyze water samples with ZEISS microscopes

A recently equipped digital classroom at the IGA campus in Berlin supports students in environmental education. With the IGA campus and the newly built environmental education centre, the IGA is focusing on encouraging the learning through play of children and young people and allowing people of all ages to experience nature in an active way.

Analysing water quality

A laboratory with 28 networked ZEISS Primo Star and Stemi 305 microscopes, as well as accessories such as cameras, enables interactive learning. From a raft on the Wuhleteich, a small pond nearby, school classes take water samples, carry out initial experiments there and then analyse the water samples in the new environmental education center. In the digital classroom, students determine the water quality and learn about the water flora and fauna. The live images of the connected microscopes can be transferred to the main display directly on an iPad, iPhone or via a projector to discuss in the group.

The IGA campus and the environmental education centre

The IGA campus is designed to be a place for learning, encountering and experimenting within the International Garden Exhibition 2017 (IGA) – a festival celebrating international garden design and green lifestyles in Berlin. Primarily conceived for teenagers and children, the IGA-classroom strives to integrate educational selections on urban gardening, development education, arts and media, and professional orientation. As a model location, the IGA campus lays the foundations for lasting environmental education in the district. In the 186 days of the international horticultural exhibition, more than 2,500 events invite guests to get actively involved, and discover and try out new things. “With the IGA campus and the environmental education centre, the international garden exhibition is a perfect place for green learning in Berlin, which will continue beyond the IGA,” says IGA Managing Director Katharina Lohmann.

More information about the Digital Classroom from ZEISS

More information about the IGA campus

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Bringing Classroom Learning to Life

ZEISS at The Big Bang Fair 2017

For the first time ever, ZEISS attended the UK Big Bang Young Scientists & Engineers Fair at Birmingham NEC. This is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK, attracting up to 22,000 visitors each day and even coverage on the BBC. Watch the highlights video to catch up on all the action.

From robotics and drones to engineering for theme parks – the Big Bang Fair had it all. The event aimed to show young people the exciting opportunities available within STEM, by bringing classroom learning to life. ZEISS did exactly that by offering a fully-interactive showcase of the Digital Classroom solution, featuring nine digital microscopes each connected to an iPad and large screens.

With everything from live bugs, dissections of insects and iPhone circuit boards under the microscopes, students, parents and teachers alike were “wowed” by the interactive technology that ZEISS had to offer. The large screens drew thousands of aspiring scientists to the stand, each approaching the digital classroom with interest and intrigue. One teacher commented: “It’s equipment like this which is a long term investment in creating an active classroom for years to come” and one young student commented: “I like that my friends can see what I’m looking at, we can all talk about it and share what we think”.

A key benefit of the ZEISS Digital Classroom is that the teacher is able to move freely around the class whilst monitoring student microscope live views via their iPad. Students and teachers can also easily share their findings, take screenshots for portfolio evidence and even add annotations. All images can be shared among the network of iPads connected to the WiFi network. This allows students to be receive real-time feedback on their findings from their teachers and classmates.

The Big Bang Science Fair helped ZEISS to demonstrate to teachers how a Digital Classroom setup can help them to revolutionise the learning and teaching of STEM subjects for our scientists of tomorrow.

The show was a fantastic experience for all involved at ZEISS, and it was extremely rewarding to see the children get so excited about science under a microscope.

Tom Quick from ZEISS UK

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eduSPIM – Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy in the Museum

ZEISS supports educational outreach project with high-end microscope objectives

Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM) combines the advantages of fast wide fiel detection and optical sectioning and is perfectly suited to image large and moving samples at cellular resolution. Its underlying principles are easily understood with basic knowledge in optics or photography. Still, little is known to the public about microscopy in general and LSFM in particular. To change this, a team of scientists has built a robust and easy to operate light sheet microscope for a museum exhibition.

Original article by Wiebke Jahr, Benjamin Schmid & Jan Huisken. Reproduced with kind permission by Imaging & Microscopy, 2017.

Science outreach programs communicate the benefits of scientific research. A successful outreach activity instills an understanding for the need of basic research in the public or sparks an interest in the sciences in students. Ideally, laymen explore the subject matter on their own terms in an interactive setting. To capture and hold their attention, surprising findings or attractive data visualization is needed.

We wanted to bring a fully functional, cutting-edge scientific instrument into an interactive museum exhibition. The design statutes for a museum exhibit differ strongly from the requirements in the lab. Appealing data visualization takes primacy to correct representation and simple, intuitive operation is more important than a large set of functions. A museum exhibit should be affordable and fit into the available space. At the same time access for service and debugging may be restricted. If the instrumentation was simplified sufficiently to meet these demands, imaging techniques promise to be a good candidate for museum exhibits, because they produce visual data that may need little post-processing to become “eye-catching”.

Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM [1]), also called Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM), is an established imaging technology in the life sciences. Its optical principles can be understood with basic knowledge in microscopy or photography: In both cases often only in-focus information is desired and the unwanted out-of-focus contribution can be eliminated by simply not illuminating. To achieve this, a SPIM consists of at least one illumination and one detection arm perpendicular to each other. A single plane in a fluorescent sample is illuminated from the side with a thin sheet of light (fig.1a). The fluorescent signal is imaged onto a fast camera and a 3D dataset is acquired by imaging multiple planes consecutively. Because no out-of-focus fluorescence is excited, the photon budget is spent economically and light doses are low. LSFM produces attractive pictures with high dynamic range, which, combined with its easy-to-understand technology, makes it an ideal candidate for an interactive, unsupervised outreach project.

We have built an educational SPIM (eduSPIM [2]) that has been on display for a whole year in the Technische Sammlungen Dresden, Germany as part of a special exhibition on occasion of the UNESCO international year of light 2015. We continue to use eduSPIM for various scientific meetings and outreach projects after the end of the exhibition.

Robust Optics Design

To ensure that our eduSPIM was both easy to use and simple to understand, we stripped the design for a scientific light sheet microscope of all non-essential parts and hid all components not vital for optical function beneath a wooden cover. Visitors only saw the optical components, consisting of a single illumination and a single detection arm placed beneath a glass cover (fig. 1b,c).

The fixed sample was placed at their intersection of both arms. To ensure longevity of the sample, the laser was only turned on when the sample was moved and a still of the last acquired image was displayed instead of a live view. To prevent evaporation, the sample was embedded in a closed chamber and the whole chamber was translated to acquire a 3D stack of images. As a consequence of the refractive index mismatch between the imaging medium and air, the optical path length in the detection changed when the chamber was moved relative to the objective. Therefore, we also moved the detection objective to obtain sharp images regardless of the imaging position.

Fast Data Visualization

We chose zebrafish embryos with fluorescently stained vasculature as the sample, because the labelled structure is meaningful also for laymen and illustrates the working principle of LSFM as the optical sectioning becomes very apparent in the maze of vessels. While users moved the sample using push-buttons labelled with pictograms, fluorescence and transmission data were acquired simultaneously and overlaid (fig. 2a). When a user acquired a stack, the 3D data were visualized using a colormap encoding for depth that was calculated on-the-fly using only 2D drawing tools that did not need high-end graphics cards (fig. 2b).

Fail-Proof Software Framework and Usage Logging

To facilitate maintenance of the remotely-located eduSPIM, we incorporated a number of functions to handle errors efficiently [3]. When an error occurred, eduSPIM entered a “fall-back mode” simulating microscope function to decrease down-time. Only if “fall-back mode” failed, the microscope entered a “fatal mode” displaying an error message.

We also log each button press and show an “eduSPIM live” view with the latest acquired dataset. With this information, we estimated the reach of eduSPIM (fig. 2c) and assessed the current sample quality to determine when the sample needed to be exchanged.

Conclusions

eduSPIM has been continuously running in a one-year-long exhibition where its buttons have been pressed 170 000 times. We have such quantitative statistics, but lack feedback whether visitors actually understood the concepts and if any question remained unanswered. After the end of the exhibition, we have shown eduSPIM at the 2016 EMBO practical course on LSFM in Dresden, Germany and the 2016 LSFM meeting in Sheffield, UK. We want to continue showing eduSPIM, with experts available, for example when labs are opened to the public or scientists visit schools. eduSPIM was designed for display in the museum, but it is still a fully functional light sheet microscope and may be a good choice for research labs in need of an affordable, easy-to-use SPIM.

Acknowledgements

We thank Thorlabs, Physik Instrumente, Toptica, ZEISS and AHF for their generous support of the eduSPIM project and the Technische Sammlungen Dresden for hosting eduSPIM. ZEISS contributed the Illumination Optics 5x/0.1 for Lightsheet Z.1 and the detection objective LD Epiplan 20x/0.4.

References

[1] Jan Huisken, Jim Swoger, Filippo Del Bene, Joachim Wittbrodt, and Ernst H. K. Stelzer: Optical Sectioning Deep Inside Live Embryos by Selective Plane Illumination MicroscopyScience 305, 1007-1009 (2004) DOI 10.1126/science.1100035
[2] Wiebke Jahr, Benjamin Schmid, Michael Weber, and Jan Huisken: eduSPIM: Light Sheet Microscopy in the MuseumPLoS ONE 11(8), e0161402 (2016) DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0161402
[3] Benjamin Schmid, Wiebke Jahr, Michael Weber, and Jan Huisken: Software Framework for Controlling Unsupervised Scientific InstrumentsPLoS ONE 11(8), e0161671 (2016) DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0161671

Authors

Wiebke Jahr1, Benjamin Schmid2, Jan Huisken3

Affiliations

1 Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany
2 Optical Imaging Centre Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany
3 Morgridge Institute for Research, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Contact

Wiebke Jahr
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
Dresden, Germany

Interested in light sheet fluorescence microscopy for your lab? Discover ZEISS Lightsheet Z.1 and get in contact!

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ZEISS & Swansea University highlight impact of microscopy solutions to improve quality of teaching

The Advanced Imaging of Materials (AIM) facility at Swansea University is an integrated scientific imaging centre with a strong focus on correlative microscopy. It aims to provide imaging and analytical capabilities across several length scales; from Angstroms to centimetres. The centre is designed to support industry, teaching and learning and fundamental research.

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