It's halfway through first period and 10th grade students from Frances Perkins Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., are in science class. Not in school, but on a specially outfitted bus parked outside.
The monitors above the microscopes flash into focus and the students are suddenly animated.
"There's something moving!" "They're just crawling around." "Do we drink this?"
"Those are protists," Ben Dubin-Thaler tells the students. "And no, we don't drink this. This is puddle water I gathered in the Bronx."
Dr. Ben, as students call him, is the founder of the Cell Motion BioBus, a high-tech, carbon-neutral laboratory housed in a retrofitted 1974 San Francisco transit bus. The BioBus provides providing hands-on science education to more than 10,000 students each year, visiting public schools across New York City and the country.
Recently, the BioBus was given an impressive electron microscope, but the staff found it difficult to access the images after the lesson. Ideally, Dubin-Thaler said, the scientists would be able to store images in a cloud-based image library where pictures would be easy to find and share.
Turns out the ideal is possible, thanks to a partnership between Points of Light and Google called HandsOn Tech.
Generously supported by Google, HandsOn Tech engages AmeriCorps VISTA members to help nonprofits use technology to improve outcomes for students in low-income communities.
To streamline photo sharing, HandsOn Tech VISTA member Stephen Bozak found a way to create an online image library that gives students greater access to their research from home and allows them to share images with friends through social media. BioBus teachers have easier access, too, freeing up their time and energy to focus on supporting their students
HandsOn Tech has mobilized 52 AmeriCorps VISTA members across nine communities and provided technology training to more than 2,100 nonprofits and 4,400 people.
Google is a Points of Light Leadership Partner, recognized for its commitment to corporate service and its leadership in showcasing the value created through employee volunteer programs. Points of Light's Leadership Partner Program recognizes and engages companies and business leaders whose investments inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.