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Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPIE)

Page history last edited by ron.evans@nic.bc.ca 8 years, 2 months ago

Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPIE)


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Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPIE)


Location: Indiana







The Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education
Gabriela Weaver
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47906

Phone: 765.496.3055


For information about the instrument network please contact Debbie Steffen.

email: dmsteffe@purdue.edu


Participating institutions:

Purdue University, Ball State University, University of Illinois, Northeastern Illinois University as well as College of Dupage, Harold Washington College, Moraine Valley Community College, and Olive-Harvey College – This list changes each semester and has been as high as 17 institutions.


Funding Source(s):

NSF (now over), various research grants, Will have to begin charging fees for research eventually and maybe for education as well.


As a result of no funding they are not currently developing curriculum.



Part of the CASPiE collaborative for undergraduate research is the remote instrumentation resource. This networked resource allows CASPiE to have an authentic research focus for our laboratory course by making a suite of high-end instruments available to first- and second-year students via the Internet. These instruments are integrated into the research projects that the students will be carrying out in the course.



The Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE) is a multi-institutional collaborative effort designed to address major barriers to providing research experiences to younger undergraduate science students.


Our Goals

CASPIE will take advantage of the complementary strengths and needs of its different partner institutions to develop a program that will:

1. Provide first and second year students with access to research experiences as part of the mainstream curriculum.
2. Create a collaborative, “research group” environment for students in the laboratory.
3. Provide access to advanced instrumentation for all members of the collaborative to be used for undergraduate research experiences.
4. Help PUI faculty develop research projects so that their own research capacity is enhanced and the students at these institutions can participate in this research.
5. Create a research experience that is engaging for women and ethnic minorities and appropriate for use at various types of institutions, including those with diverse populations.



Faculty or their institution can request access to CASPIE and, once granted access, participate in the CASPIE evaluation, which includes interviews and surveys.  Use of CASPIE equipment is open to anyone, but it is practically limited by operation and maintenance costs.  Policies are currently changing as the original NSF grant has run out.  They might need to go to a business model that includes user fees.  If so, it is hoped that the fees for research use will subsidize academic use of CASPIE equipment.  If fees have to be charged for educational use, it is a concern that the necessary fees would be too high for 2-year colleges to afford. 



Currently a faculty member or their institution can simply request access to CASPIE as long as they are willing to meet the evaluation policy outlined above.  Once accepted:

• faculty can demonstrate instruments remotely in lecture courses and teach their operation and purpose.
• Students can:

• Download and interpret authentic data collected by researchers
• Learn to remotely calibrate instruments
• Submit their own samples and acquire spectra/data remotely



The Citrix environment has a light weight server for each piece of equipment.  This server is connected to deliver the apps themselves for analysis and is part of a pool of 48 core 96 gig HP servers with AMD processors.  This is a lot of memory and a lot of processors, but Citrix balances loads.  Since this is real research data it requires a record of how the data was done, where it is stored, how it was collected in case something happens to data.  Real research is the focus and the data could end up in publication.


CASPIE is using ‘workhorse’ research equipment.  While not normally found in first year student labs, it is quite common in research labs.


Instruments (and location) – Gas chromatography (PU*); Liquid chromatography (PU); Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (PU); FTIR/Raman spectroscopy (PU)


PU = Purdue University



Use software supplied by instrument venders.  Each piece of CASPIE equipment has a server attached.  They use Citrix, Metaframe Server, and a Citrix plug-in.  There are over 200 apps on their server.  Data analysis software is separate from instrument software thus freeing the instruments to collect more data.


Students log into a ‘server farm’.  They are given a set of icons representing the software they can use. There are two icons.  One is an icon for data collection, which references to software connected to instrument.  The second icon controls a version of the software not connected to the instrument, but allows students to analyze their data.  Once they have finished the data collection run, they log out of the instrumentation version of the software and into the analysis version, which is not connected to the instrument.  This allows them to do data analysis without tying up the instrumentation any longer than necessary and allows them to manage their licenses.  There is one licensed piece of software for each instrument.

Scheduling Solutions:  

Currently scheduling is done manually.  The CASPIE team works with each institution and puts an entry into an active directory that enables/disables access by a particular class.


Scheduling is the ‘holy grail’ of remote lab delivery.  The CASPIE team has not yet chosen an automated scheduling package they want to use, but it will go one of two ways.  (1) One option is to look at the high performance computing area where there are several scheduling packages that are freely available that schedule large research clusters.  These will allow people to schedule particular resources at particular times.  (2) The other option is coming out of Microsoft - Windows HPC has a scheduling package built in. Neither is a complete answer.


Academic level: First and second year and research


Academic area: Chemistry and biology


Lab names

Lab names are defined by the instructor.  See the CASPIE website for available modules.



Eight (8) or nine (9) institutions and/or classes can be on CASPIE simultaneously.  Classes could be 500 students/class down to 20 students/class.

The actual number of students collecting data in a given time period is determined by how long each data scan is.  If the data scan is 15 min long this dictates how many students can do experiment during a 24 hour period.  If the data scan is 5 minutes then 3 times as many students can do the lab in a 24 hour period.  Some instructors/professors are choosing not to have each individual student run the experiment, but to run it in batch mode.




  • [Dan]: This is the same type of model as the ILN at WWU: experts running high-end equipment and students remotely collecting data.
  • However CASPIE is significantly different from ILN at the software level.  High security is important to CASPIE.
  • CASPIE can be used in batch mode.
  • Gabriela suggests we look at the work that Phil Long is doing in Australia, Michael Auer in Austria, and others.
  • CASPIE was originally financed by an NSF chemistry 5 year grant that doesn’t exist anymore.  Applying for NSF grants is a 'painful' process.
  • It is suggested that we look for the book: Internet Accessible Remote Laboratories: Scalable E-Learning Tools for Engineering and Science Disciplines http://www.igi-global.com/book/internet-accessible-remote-laboratories/52730
  • CASPIE is not doing online learning.  They have not seen online labs that they feel will be comparable to face-to-face labs.  They question if learning outcomes can be achieved on-line.  They feel the CASPIE model pedagogically doesn't fit online.
  • There are some areas where NANSLO might consider collaborating with CASPIE.
  • Gabriela wants to see the Environmental Scan when it’s done.  They will have some thoughts at that time and are Interested in working others.


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