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STEM Inspectors Program Gives Eyes to the Invisible World

Aug 10, 2021 3 min read

A microscope is a tool that enables us to see things far beyond what the naked eye can. Microscopes, specifically electron microscopes, are a key quality control tool in the semiconductor industry and are incorporated into KLA’s advanced inspection and metrology solutions. Basic classroom compound microscopes, however, are a costly investment for schools. To help students see what is usually invisible to the naked eye, the KLA Foundation created STEM Inspectors: Searching for Defects in the Microscopic World. As part of the KLA Foundation’s goal of closing the STEM education equity gap, this program was developed to provide students with useful STEM skills and introduce them to the many career opportunities available in the semiconductor industry.

“A project that linked learning to the real world of work. This adds relevance to science lessons and gives pupils a greater understanding of career opportunities in the semiconductor industry – all done in an engaging and fun way!”

Head of Education Andrea Meyrick, Techniquest Science Center UK

Collaborative Partnership brings STEM Inspectors into Classrooms

Since 2019, a total of five lesson plans were developed in partnership with Santa Clara Unified School District. Four of the lessons focus on microscopes and their role in the semiconductor industry. In the final lesson, KLA employees share their professional experiences and introduce STEM education pathways and career opportunities. Environmental Science Teacher Goldie Malone and KLA Marketing Director Kara Sherman created these plans to incorporate the use of microscopes and teach semiconductor basics to students. After piloting the program in summer 2020, the KLA Foundation and its educational partners have delivered the lessons to over 1,000 students globally.

The program utilizes a product called Foldscope. Developed by Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski at Stanford University, the paper microscope costs roughly $1 to manufacture, can magnify up to 140x what we can see with the human eye and has a 2-micron resolution. The affordability of the microscope has ensured that all students who participate in the program can have their own device without compromising the quality of what is viewed beneath the lens.

“STEM Inspectors has developed organically out of a donation of foldscopes from KLA to my 7th grade science class. Over the last two years, this project blossomed into a beautiful series of lessons that covertly teach students what KLA does by using their Foldscopes to search for “defects” in a custom slide that was created by a KLA employee. The most beautiful thing about this collaboration is introducing our most vulnerable students to future career options that they didn’t even know existed.”

Educator Goldie Malone, New Valley High School, Santa Clara, California

Completed Programs and Global Expansion

The KLA Foundation and Techniquest Science Center UK partnered to develop the Train the Trainer program. The program’s mission is to prepare educators to deliver the STEM Inspectors program in their schools. So far, eight teachers from six different schools in South Wales, UK, have participated in the Train the Trainer initiative and delivered the lessons to their respective science classes. Looking ahead, the KLA Foundation is expanding their partnerships to other educational institutions, including the Arizona Science Center, Idaho STEAM Center, two schools in Israel, and India.

“The level of participation was high across the series of lessons, and these seemed to encourage class participation. Despite the series of lessons being geared towards a virtual classroom environment, they were carefully planned and very informative, and the pupils benefitted from an insight into the semiconductor world!”

Educator Matt Sear, Cantonian High School, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Explore the KLA Foundation website to learn more about our role in bettering the communities where our employees live and work.

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