More than 15,000 pipette tips, 12,000 pairs of gloves and 15,000 liters of agarose are stashed on the MdBioLab, a modified tractor trailer kitted out with research laboratory-worthy equipment, which parked itself last week at the SEED School of Maryland, located in southwest Baltimore near Gwynns Falls Park.
The MdBioLab is the flagship program of the MdBio Foundation, founded in 1997 to sound the bugle horn of bioscience awareness in Maryland. The foundation itself is a subsidiary of the Tech Council of Maryland. The MdBioLab was created in 2003, and in that time the MdBioFoundation has poured some $2 million into the tractor-trailer laboratory, which teaches on average 500 classes each year to predominantly high school students in all the school districts in the state.
“It’s basically a marketing campaign for science,” says Jennifer Colvin, director of education and workforce programs at the MdBio Foundation, which funds all those pairs of gloves — and all the other equipment — on the mobile lab. (It’s not the only mobile tech member in Maryland these days.)
Each year, the retrofitted mobile lab will teach about 10,000 kids, and classes are facilitated by two full-time instructors: Timothy Carter, 29, and Reimi Hicks, 26, both of whom are University of Maryland, College Park, graduates. The truck, which can accommodate about 38 kids, contains individual lab stations along both sides with an aisle in the middle, and typically spends about a week at each school it visits each year, working with science teachers to augment their planned lessons. During the summer, the MdBioLab puts on a summer camp for middle school students.
Technically Baltimore stopped by the SEED School on Thursday to catch students in the midst of a gel electrophoresis experiment.
The MdBioLab, by the numbers:
- 33,000: the number of pounds the mobile lab weighs
- 15,000: the number of miles the truck drives each year
- 2,800: the number of classes conducted on board the lab
- 10: the number of years the mobile lab has been around
- 100,000: the number of students who have taken classes on the lab in that 10-year period