Emissions Spectrum Tools

Grant Applicant
Jason Flesock, Todd Hennings
School Site
North Tahoe High School
Grant Category
Mathematics & Science
Grant Date
Description (10 points)

Unlocking the inherent power of science in the classroom simply comes down to how effectively a teacher facilitates scientific experimentation. At North Tahoe High School, we have been able to acquire some incredible science tools over the years which allow our students to collect data in a precise, controlled, and often expedited way. Collectively, our science classrooms are now more effective than ever in allowing students to draw meaningful information about foundational scientific concepts directly through experimentation -- where their data informs their conclusions about the concept in question. Simply put, there is no better way for students to learn science. 


Several years ago, the state of California adopted new science standards, known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards created a monumental shift in how science instruction was to take place in the classroom. Rather than traditional classroom standards, NGSS is based on teaching in a three dimensional format, linking together content standards with Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts that go across different science courses. With these standards comes an emphasis on Scientific Inquiry, where students are to challenge their misconceptions and to derive meaning about scientific concepts through data collection and analysis. 


Another major shift with NGSS has to do with Earth and Space Science Standards. Typically, these standards would have been part of an Earth Science Course -- however, now these standards are to be taught across the standard 3 course model for science: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. One specific focus of these standards has to do with the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core in releasing energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation. We can study this emission through a spectral analysis process, where the different wavelengths and frequencies of the radiation emitted from the sun can be studied to determine the age of the sun. We also study this process in chemistry, to learn about how electronic transitions in different atoms result in unique emissions spectrums. They allow us to identify elements, much like using a fingerprint. Equipment like this is very powerful for students to be able to use in a high school classroom!


It is with the support of an Excellence in Education Grant that we plan to purchase a number of different emission study tools for student use across multiple classes: a Emissions Spectrophotometer, a Emissions Optical Fiber, Hydrogen and Helium Spectrum Tubes, and a Spectrum Tube Carousel. The Vernier Emissions Spectrometer allows students to conduct emissions analysis with their chromebooks.  The spectrophotometer plugs directly into the student chromebooks via USB, and with the free spectral analysis software from Vernier, gives precise measurements over a range of 350–900 nm to examine spectra of light bulbs, spectrum tubes, or even the sun. The optical fiber is necessary for observations of emissions from discharge tubes. The carousel is a safe and effective way for students to plug in and view discharge tubes. Lastly, we are requesting additional hydrogen and helium discharge tubes, essential to understanding sun emissions and early models of the atom. 


Benefits of Program (10 points)

One thing that we pride ourselves on, as a department at North Tahoe High School, is how we integrate experimentation into our instruction. If you were to walk into any science classroom at NTHS, you would see students as active scientists, collaborating and making meaning of scientific concepts through data collection and analysis. We have successfully embedded all NGSS standards and practices into our classrooms, and we strive to always use modern technologies to make these concepts more accessible than ever before.


We specifically have acquired a number of Vernier probes and data collection tools over the years, and we are hoping to enhance that collection with an added emphasis on the Earth and Space Science Standards that are taught across all of our courses. Here is a description of each of the components of this grant, from the Vernier website, to understand a bit more about what these pieces of equipment do:


Emissions Spectrophotometer

The Vernier Emissions Spectrometer allows you to instantly collect emissions spectra from light bulbs, gas discharge tubes, or the sun. It connects directly to your computer or LabQuest with a standard USB cable and gives precise measurements over a range of 350–900 nm.


Emissions Optical Fiber

This fiber is an accessory for the Vernier Emissions Spectrometer that allows for precise measurements of emissions spectrum wavelengths. This fiber can also be used with the Vernier Spectrometer and other Ocean Optics VIS-NIR Spectrometers.


Spectrum Discharge Tubes for Hydrogen and Helium

Spectrum Tubes contain enclosed gas atoms, that when electrically charged, generate an emissions spectrum for student study. The gas tubes are permanently enclosed in plastic carriers that protect the tubes from breakage. There are no through-the-glass electrodes, so the tubes last far longer than older designs.


Spectrum Tube Carousel

The Spectrum Tube Carousel Power Supply features the same ultra-safe, patent-pending design of the Single version, but holds eight gas spectrum tubes simultaneously. You can quickly switch from one gas to another without handling the tubes.

Together, these tools work with a free software from Vernier, Spectral Analysis, which allows students to collect spectrophotometer data on their Chromebooks.

Success of Program (10 points)

This equipment greatly enhances the current technology we have for emissions studies. We do have some old gas discharge tubes and power supplies. The issues with those tubes is that they have glass electrodes and do not have protective barriers to protect against breaking, which has happened quite often in the past. The issue with our power supplies is that they can only hold one discharge tube at a time. These tubes can get extremely hot, and we do not want the students handling them to exchange the tubes due to both the hazard of breaking them or getting burned by touching the tubes.Additionally, the only way for us to study the emissions was to use a plastic handheld spectrophotometer, which does not give students accurate data of the wavelengths of observed spectral lines, due to both ambient light and poor data collection methods. Lastly, we have not had a safe way to observe emissions from the sun directly, which is an integral part of ESS standards.


Our teachers at NTHS have a lot of experience working with the data collection tools from Vernier. Their ease of integration have made them all regularly used tools in the science classrooms. At a time when students must engage in evidence-based argumentation as a result of NGSS implementation, these laboratory tools are indispensable in a 21st century classroom. 


Implementation (10 points)

With this spring grant cycle, we hope to purchase these new tools at the start of the 2020-2021 school year and to integrate them into classes the same year. Because we have other Verner tools that already use the Spectral Analysis program, students will easily be able to use their Chromebooks to connect to these tools. There are several units across multiple science classes where these tools would be used by students to facilitate their learning.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

These tools have very important applications in all Chemistry and Physics courses. In Chemistry (including AP Chemistry), students would use these tools to study emissions spectrums for Hydrogen and Helium, which generates evidence about electron transitions between ground and excited states. These discoveries led to important changes in the model of the atom, where electrons were found to travel in quantized states. 


In Physics (including AP Physics), students would use these tools to study emissions from the sun to study the wavelengths and frequencies of solar radiation to study the age of a star, an essential ESS standard. There is also additional study from discharge tubes, where the focus is on the wavelengths/frequencies/energy of emissions from different elements, rather than quantized electron transitions like we would study in Chemistry.


Together, these tools have great interdisciplinary connections between our Physical Science courses and would be used by all of the students in those classes.


This project is fully sustainable and durable. Vernier equipment is notoriously durable and designed for student use in secondary schools. They have amazing customer service for any equipment issues. Additionally, we are already in possession of several other Vernier products and lab programs, so we are well equipped from a teacher training side of things to successfully integrate these tools. We would not need additional EEF funds for this program.
Amount Funded
Individual Budget Items(s)
$88 - Vernier Emissions Fiber
$319 - Spectrum Tube Carousel w/ Holder
$799 - Vernier Emissions Spectrophotometer
$90 - Spectrum Tube - Hydrogen (2)
$90 - Spectrum Tube - Helium (2)
Other funding sources

We currently do not have other funding sources for a purchase like this. Current budget funding through Measure A and Classroom-Use Funds, are primarily reserved for maintaining chemical inventories, biological consumables and replacing broken or used scientific equipment. Additionally, with expected tightening of budgets due to the school closures during 2019-2020 school year, funding will be more limited going forward.

File Uploads

Itemized quote for the Vernier Sensors is attached. Vernier Sensors are very competitive when it comes to pricing in comparison to other major companies that produce similar products, such as Pasco.