Gifted and Talented Education - Steppingstone School
The SMART Center is a dedicated space for interactive learning. It employs technology and innovative teaching methods to facilitate an engaging and effective learning environment. In the context of science education, the SMART Center can provide virtual laboratories, simulation software, and access to global scientific databases.
Here, gifted children can conduct experiments, analyze data, and present their findings, mirroring the work of real scientists. This practical experience instills a deep understanding of scientific concepts and cultivates skills like problem-solving, data analysis, and critical thinking. The SMART Center experience brings science to life, making it exciting and relevant for gifted school students.
SMART stands for Steppingstone MAgnetic Resonance Training. The SMART Center is a laboratory equipped with advanced scientific instrumentation (a Bruker Bio-Spin electron paramagnetic resonance – EPR – spectrometer, A JEOL RE-1X spectrometer, and JEOL TE200 spectrometer, a Bruker Bio-Spin Micro and Nano spectrometers) that are open to students. Most science majors would never have access to this kind of equipment even at a university. The SMART Center is a place where you can come to do science as scientists do it. It is a place where you can ask questions about your world and learn to get your own answers with a research scientist at your side.
The United States is behind many other countries in providing educational opportunities for students in math and sciences. Students usually do not have the opportunity to experience an actual scientific environment until college or graduate school. The SMART Center seeks to provide an avenue by which students interested in science can, early in their careers, participate in a real research environment using advanced instrumentation.
The purpose of SMART Center is to provide students the opportunity to experience an authentic research environment where they learn to design and perform valid research experiences. They are taught to use advanced instrumentation to engage in scientific research of their choosing. The staff of the SMART Center are employed to assist the students in learning how to use the instrumentation, what kinds of scientific questions can be asked using this instrumentation, how to design the experiments and interpret the data, and how to present their results to a general audience.
The SMART Center differs from an academic research environment in one fundamental way – at the SMART Center, the student drives the research, and the role of the professor is to mentor the student, not tell them what kind of research project to do.
The Director of the SMART Center, Dr. Reef (Philip D.,II) Morse, has over 45 years of experience in research, teaching, and developing students. He has 50 peer-reviewed publications in areas of magnetic resonance, cell structure, physical biochemistry, computer programming, and surface chemistry. His relationship with Dr. Arthur Heiss at Bruker Bio-Spin was pivotal to bringing the Bruker ESP300 EPR Spectrometer, the first instrument, to the SMART Center. He has taught students from post-Doctoral fellows to early Kindergarten.
The Head of School at Steppingstone, Kiyo Morse, has 40 years of experience educating gifted and talented students. She has a master’s degree in genetics and experimental design and analysis and provides additional support for the SMART Center through the auspices of Steppingstone.
This program is unique – as far as we know, nothing like this exists anywhere else in the world. No other primary or secondary school has access to an EPR spectrometer, especially in conjunction with the background of the SMART Center staff. The participants in the SMART Center are forging a new path in science education and the science experience.
That is up to you to decide. The SMART Center offers a place where you can pursue scientific questions much as scientists do. It allows you to use equipment that most college students would never be allowed to use. But it requires effort, discipline, focus, as well as a willingness to ask questions and to make mistakes. With this responsibility comes the freedom to explore your world as few others can.
Apply. There is an application form at https://www.steppingstoneschool.org/smart-center-application/ which you can download and submit.
Submit your application by email or surface mail.
The address is: Steppingstone MAgnetic Resonance Training Center
Attn: Admissions 650 Church Street Suite 119 Plymouth, MI 48170
Use the subject heading SMART Admissions for email.
Applications are evaluated based on completeness, references, the essay, and other considerations.
No. The application is a request for us to consider you. Usually there are several applications for each available spot in the program.
That would help. If you wish, you can cross out the grades. What’s important about the transcript is that it shows what experience you have. Grades are certainly not the only thing that we consider in an application.
- Make it legible. Word processing is best.
- Get letters of recommendation from your references. You don’t have to send them in with the application, but you should make sure they are received by the SMART Center before the application deadline.
- Make sure you include any additional material that will help us make our decision. Ask yourself the question “What makes me stand out? What’s valuable about me? Why should they take me instead of others who are applying?”
- The application must be your work, and your work alone. Sometimes helpful parents want to fill in the information for you, but this will disqualify your application. We are accepting you into the program and we want to know about you.
- Write with passion. Tell us who you are. Use extra pages as necessary.
A good short description of EPR is available at https://www.bruker.com/en/products-and-solutions/mr/epr-instruments.html. It is a method to detect, and measure the properties of, free radicals. Not all free radicals are “bad” and, indeed, they occur frequently in such foodstuffs as coffee and toast. At the SMART Center, one focus is on the use of artificial, stable free-radicals to study the motion and distribution of molecules in different cells, tissues, and systems. Another is how the food we eat produces, or detoxifies, unstable free radicals. Additionally, once you are accepted, you will receive written material to show you the depth and breadth of the technology.
In someone else’s’ research lab, you are usually in a laboratory that already has a defined research goal that has been determined by the chief or professor in charge. You work for them. At the SMART Center, the chief or professor (in this case, the director) works for you. The director is much more of a coach or guide rather than someone who tells you what do to. Thus, the burden of success or failure rides mostly on your shoulders.
The course is rigorous, demanding, and likely to take you into areas where you have little or no expertise. This can be scary for some people. However, that is the nature of science. How hard it is depends upon your willingness to go into the unknown and study areas that you didn’t even know existed.
Most practicing scientists spend several hours a week in the library or online reading about their subject or teaching themselves something new. The more of this you do, the more rewarding your experience can be and the faster you can reach your research goal. Ultimately, this is up to you.
The Training Class is a series of four six-hour classes. Each class is designed to teach you the fundamentals of electron paramagnetic resonance and laboratory technique. This includes how to use the EPR spectrometers in the SMART Center properly and successfully, data analysis, and experimental design. Once you have completed the Training Class, you are ready for the open-ended laboratory research phase.
Up to 5 students may be admitted into a given training class.
Once you have completed the training class, you can sign up for instrument and laboratory time to begin your research.
The SMART Center operational costs are met through a combination of grants, processing fees, and payments by participants. At this time, we don’t have money from grants to cover all the material costs, so we ask you to pay. Although this might seem like a lot of money, businesses would be charged about $300-500/hour just for use of the instrument. Because of the generosity of Bruker Bio-Spin, JEOL, and others, our costs are less, but still significant. To sustain this program, it requires your support.
The SMART Center is a program operated under the auspices of Steppingstone School for Gifted Education. Steppingstone is organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Donations should be made out to Steppingstone, but with the restriction that the donation be used only for the SMART Center. If you have further restrictions, be sure to make note of those (for example, you may want to donate to a scholarship fund or help purchase exotic chemicals).