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LIGHTS donates to high schools

Amanda Gray | Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Used science equipment has found new life in needy high schools thanks to the year-old Notre Dame Laboratory Instrumentation Giving Hope to Students (ND LIGHTS) initiative.

The program has successfully donated 12 pieces of campus equipment valued at more than $275,000 to six schools participating in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program, ND LIGHTS Director Dr. Michelle Viglietta Joyce said.

“This program has evolved into a place for a second life for equipment,” she said. “We take care of all of the paperwork. All the professor has to do is say, ‘I have this machine and want it to be donated.’ All the schools have to do is pay for the transportation … It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The program finds high schools in need across the country and prepares the donation, Joyce said.

“Everyone is very supportive of this project,” she said. “I’m so appreciative of the department, the dean of the College of Science and the Office of Sustainability. They helped me turn this idea into a reality.”

The origin of ND LIGHTS lies in West Virginia, Joyce said.

Joyce’s father, a retired principal at a West Virginia high school, spent 40 years encouraging students to grow and explore with education, she said. Joyce, an assistant professional specialist in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, took these teachings to heart when she founded ND LIGHTS last year to give old scientific equipment from Notre Dame science labs to resource-limited schools across the United States.

“I always watched him provide the best for his students, especially in the sciences,” she said. “It was my high school chemistry lab that got me interested in chemistry. That’s where you can get kids interested in making this into a career.”

Joyce creates experiments for teachers to perform with their students at the recipient schools.

“What sets this program apart is the fact that we develop these experiments,” she said. “VWR, the preferred campus supplier of lab supplies, has partnered with us to donate all of the accessories and chemicals. They’re donating cases and cases so whole classes can do the experiment.”

Joyce said she used journal articles to develop the experiments during the program’s first year, which she then taught to ACE teachers over the summer to use in their curriculum this fall. Next year, she will look to local schools as possible recipients for program equipment.

In the future, Joyce said she hopes more Notre Dame students can get involved with the project. One way they can do so is enrolling in a class this spring semester to assist with donations. The class, called “Instrumentation in Scientific Education,” will have two to three students working with the equipment to create experiments for high school classes.

Beyond the instruments donated to needy high schools, four highly specialized machines were also donated to Saint Mary’s, Joyce said. The machines are already being used in Saint Mary’s science curriculum.

Contact Joyce at mjoyce@nd.edu if you would like to donate or learn more about the spring semester class.