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BioBus welcomes middle school science students

By Susan Mustapich | Oct 21, 2017
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Students Julian Mayhorn, left, and Ben Schenk view a crab taken from Camden Harbor under a microscope in the BioBus II science lab Oct. 20 during PopTech 2017. The image of the crab is also projected on a screen beside them.

CAMDEN — The BioBus II, a mobile science lab parked beside Camden's Village Green, welcomed teacher Joshua Toothacker's eighth-grade science students from Camden Rockport Middle School Oct. 19 and 20.

Based in New York City, the BioBus traveled all the way to Camden to take part in PopTech 2017. The visit gave students a chance to experience what PopTech brings to Camden; this year, in line with the event's theme: instigate. CRMS students experienced some scientific investigation outside of the classroom, had some fun in a lab, and got to use high-tech equipment they might not see until college, including an electron scanning microscope.

BioBus gives students an opportunity to take a closer look at things in their environment, said staff member Li Murphy, who was excited by the plethora of living creatures in such close proximity to the bus. She said that in New York City, staff can sometimes spend quite a bit of time looking for something to bring into the lab.

BioBus staff visited Camden harbor Thursday, with Harbormaster Steve Pixely. They lifted up a lobster trap, collected a crab, an urchin and some mollusks, and "scraped stuff" off the trap, for students to look at under their microscopes, Murphy said. Water from Camden harbor was sampled as well.

Guided by Murphy and BioBus Chief Scientist Latasha Wright, a group of students took a close look at a crab under a powerful microscope. A student observed that "the crab's eye has patterns." Wright explained what they were looking at is the compound eye of the crab.

Wright encouraged students to write their observations on the gleaming aluminum walls of the BioBus. "We can write on the walls?" someone asked.  "Yes, you can," Wright said. "It wipes off."

Toothaker enjoyed visiting the BioBus as much as the students. He appreciated the interactive approach of sampling the local environment and then investigating it in the lab. In addition, students learned about how BioBus is powered by solar panels, a windmill and lithium ion batteries.

BioBus Inc. was founded by 2010 PopTech Science Fellow Ben Dubin-Thaler and supports the mission of giving everyone the opportunity to reach their full scientific potential. Since its founding in New York City in 2008, 200,000 students have boarded the bus and discovered the excitement of research science.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at

The New York City BioBus II, which visited Camden for PopTech 2017, is a mobile science lab that encourages students to engage in scientific exploration. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
From left, Joshua Toothaker, Camden Rockport Middle School science teacher, Tess Jalbuena-Cook, Julian Mayhorn, and BioBus Chief Scientist Latasha Wright, check out a water sample taken from Camden harbor on a screen projection of the microscope image. Alivia Kurr, front right, looks closely at a sea urchin. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Inside BioBus II at PopTech 2017 in Camden. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Eighth-grade science students from Camden Rockport Middle School gather on Camden's Village Green Oct. 20 to listen to BioBus Chief Scientist Latasha Wright. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
The sold-out PopTech 2017 conference takes place in Camden Oct. 19-21. Sponsor Toyota helped bring BioBus II to the conference. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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