Off-the-Shelf Distance Learning Tools Allow Hard-to-Reach High School Students Easy Access to Science Center Exhibits

The California Space Grant Consortium (CaSGC) headquarters office often utilizes off-the-shelf equipment to connect remote education communities with interesting STEM sites such as the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego. Most recently, the CaSGC headquarters staff conducted an activity involving UCSD Aerospace Engineering students Grace Jang and Gamer Kesheshe, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Public Programs Manager Valerie MacPhee, and Mountain Empire High School teachers Roger Wynn and Ryan Termath.

UCSD Aerospace Engineering Student Gamer Kesheshe Participates in Distance Learning Activity with Reuben H Fleet Science Center

The UCSD students were located at the Science Center (Balboa Park, San Diego) and equipped with an iPhone 5 (using local wi-fi), a wireless Jawbone headset (connected via Bluetooth), and Skype for software.

Meanwhile, the high school teachers (and their students) were located more than 60 miles away in their physics classroom at Mountain Empire High School. The school site technology consisted of a Macintosh laptop running Skype and Call Recorder – connected to a T-1 line for Internet connectivity and using a wall projector to display the Skype session.

In conjunction with the Skype session between the physics class and the UCSD students located at the Fleet Science Center, the high school students also participated in a hands-on activity that demonstrated the flow of charge in a circuit. Specifically, a magnet was moved by a coil and this generated an electric current which lit up a Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulb. Similarly at the Science Center, the UCSD students were showing an exhibit that also demonstrated how the LED lights up as the magnetic field from the magnet passes by the coil of wires. Seeing this example via both the Skype session and the hands-on activity allowed the students an opportunity to better understand the concept.

Located in rural San Diego County, Mountain Empire High School serves a diverse population of students; the Mountain Empire School District is geographically the largest school district in California.

After the Skype session, the science teacher administered a survey to the 19 physics students that participated in the real-time distance learning activity and results are as follows:

  • 84 percent of the students agreed that the information was presented effectively by the presenters, that they are interested in participating in another activity interacting with STEM experts, and that they would recommend this type of distance learning activity to classmates and friends.
  • 79 percent of the students agreed that they are more excited about studying science after this activity and that they learned a lot from the students and researchers at the science/engineering site.

The magnets distance learning activity was led by Kimberly Mann Bruch (not pictured) and included UCSD Aerospace Engineering students Grace Jang (right) and Gamer Kesheshe (left) along with Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Public Programs Manager Valerie MacPhee (center).

“We were pleased with the outcome of this activity,” says Valerie MacPhee, Public Programs Manager at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. “And, we are hopeful to participate in additional such distance learning studies in the future with the California Space Grant.”

A video of the archived distance learning activity is available on YouTube at:

Photographs are available at:

Additional CaSGC archived distance learning activities include: