Skip directly to content

Pitt Mobile Science Lab

The Pitt Mobile Science Lab brings educational science experiments to schools and community events throughout the Western Pennsylvania region on an 80-foot tractor-trailer, equipped as a state-of-the-art student science laboratory. The mobile science lab features 26 workstations and customized equipment.

Programs currently offered by the Pitt Mobile Science Lab include:

Regenerative Medicine (grades 6-8)

Students will work to construct a bio-degradable nerve guide from a polymer by:

  • learning about the structure of nerve cells, where nerve guides are most applicable, and what conditions lead to nerve damage
  • working in groups to prepare their mandrel for polymer attachment
Program Duration: 50 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 10 minutes

MS-ETS1-4 (PA State Standards: 3.4.7.B4 Use of technology has consequences that affect humans; 3.4.7.B4 Methodical processes of tests and refinements explain inventions and innovations; 3.4.10.E1 Assess how medical technologies over time have impacted prevention and rehabilitiation, vaccines and phrmaceuticals, medical and surgical procedurs, and genetic engineering)


Forensic Science (grades 4-12)

Students put their analytical skills to work when:

Elementary and Middle school students learn bone anatomy and classify their own fingerprint pattern, 4-LS1-1

High School students will participate in a crime scene exercise in which they learn: HS-LS4-1

  • that scientific evidence is critical to making claims
  • anatomical features of the human skull and face
  • gender and geographic origin can be determined by examining anatomical features
Program Duration: 1 hour
Time Required Between Classes: 5 minutes 

(PA State Standards: Analyze how structure is related to function at all levels of biological organization from molecules to organisms;  Know that both direct and indirect observations are used by scientists to study the natural world and universe; 3.1.B.C3 Interpret data from fossil records, anatomy and physiology, and DNA studies relevant to the theory of evolution)


Examining Biological Systems (grades 7-12)

Currently Unavailable

We offer 2 programs that explore biological systems. Students will investigate zebrafish as a model to:

  • study the effect of caffeine on zebrafish heart rate
  • learn about genetic mutations 
All students must participate in an ethics course.
Program Duration: Zebrafish Genetics- 50 minutes Zebrafish Caffeine 75 minutes or 2- 50 minute sessions on different days
Time Required Between Classes: 15 minutes 

Caffeine: MS-LS-1-3, HS-LS1-4 Genetics: HS-LS3-3 (PA State Standards: 3.4.7.D2 Safely use appropriate tools, products, and systems for specific tasks; M7.B. Convert measurements of seconds, minutes, and hours; 3.1.7.B5 Examine patterns of genetics)


Human Genetics (grades 4-12)

Students will discover that DNA influences the expression of traits when: 

  • Elementary students work a DNA puzzle and examine agarose gels.
  • Middle School students prepare an agarose gel and learn to use micro-pipets
  • High School students prepare and agarose gel and have experience genotyping patients
Program Duration: Elemantary 50 minues Middle & Highschool 60-75 minutes 
Time Required Between Classes: 15 minutes 

Elementary & Middle School 4-LS1-1, MS-LS3-1

Highschool HS-LS1-1

(PA State Standards: 3.1.8.B3 Explain how genetic instructions influence inherited traits; 3.4.7.D2 Safely use appropriate tools, products, and systems for specific tasks)


Moving Molecules (grades 6-9)

Students will discover the body systems that exhibit diffusion and osmosis by:

  • observing the movement of molecules in real-time
  • testing the selectiveness of membranes for movement of various molecules
Program Duration: 1 hours
Time Required Between Classes: 15 minutes 


(PA State Standards: 3.4.6.C2 Show how models are used to test design ideas and processes; M6.B.2.2 Solve problems involving length, perimeter, area and/or volume of geometric figures)


Living With Bugs (grades 4-12) 

Students will explore the world of microorganisms by:

  • discovering microorganisms that live in harmony with our bodies and those that cause illness
  • diagnose a patient's infection 
Program Duration: 50 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 10 minutes


(PA State Standards: 3.1.6.A8 SCALES Explain why details of most cells are visible only through a microscope; S6.A.2.2.1 Describe ways technology extends and enhances human abilities for specific purposes)


Environmental Impacts (grades 4-12)

Students will discover the effects of human activities on the environment.

Elementary and Middle school students observe development changes in zebrafish embryos, MS-LS2-5  -  Currently Unavailable

High school students have two options: 

  1.  observe cellular changes in human cells that occur with cancer, HS-LS2-8 (HS-LS4-6), HS-ESS3-3
  2.   how Marcellus Shale hydrofracturing impacts water quality, contact staff*, HS-ESS3-2, HS-ESS3-4
All students have to participate in an ethics course only when zebrafish are used.
Program Duration: 50 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 15 minutes

Healthy Living (grades 4-12)

Comprises three different programs:

  • Exercise Program: students discover the effects of exercise on organ systems **Must have access to exercise area
  • Using pedometers students learn the impact of exercise on human organ systems and how to convert steps to estimated calories burned 
  • Using acticals, (24 students max) students learn the impact of exercise on human organ systems and how movement can be represented graphically
  • Reading Food Label Program: students learn the contents of food labels, and the difference between serving size and portion size. They will extract information from food labels and build a meal. 
  • Chemistry of Food Program: students test for protein and sugar content in foods. They will use a micropipette and a vortex. (grades 5-12 only, max of 4 classes per day)
Program Duration: 1 hour
Time Required Between Classes: 5 minutes for all except 30 minutes for Chemistry of Food

(10.1.6.C  Analyze nutritional concepts that  impact health; 10.4.6.B Explain the effects of regular participation in moderate to vigorous physical activities on the body systems)


Exploring Animal Diversity (grades 4-5)

Students will be able to explore a non-traditional animal, the hydractinia using our microscopes. Hydractinia are stationary animals that live on the back of hermit crabs.  Their nervous system is composed of a nerve net which reacts to touch, sounds, and movement. Activities include:

  • Review the difference between a plant and an animal
  • Observe the life cycle of the hydractinia
  • Discover how they react to touch
  • Feed the hydractinia brine shrimp and see how it they grab their food
Program Duration: 50 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 10 minutes
(3.1.4.A1 Classify plants and animals according to the physical characteristics they share)


Impact of Addictive Substances (grades 4-12)

Using planarians, students will conduct an empirical experiment to analyze the impact of potentially addictive substances. Students will learn that changes within the brain occur as a result of substances such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.

All students must participate in an introduction class prior to the lab.

Introduction course: 40 minutes
Wet Lab Program Duration: 60 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 15 minutes
(10.2.6D/10.2.9D Analyze and apply a descision-making process to adolescent health and safety issues)

Diving into Earth's Past (grades 4-8)

Students will learn how researchers use reconstructed data to interpret the past and discuss the environmental, climatic, and human disturbance implications.  The reconstructed data focuses on the analysis of lake sediment cores and fossil proxies:

  • Elementary level - Fire History - Students learn about how to interpret the amount of charcoal from lake sediments and what it tells us about the fire history of a forest. This is done by collecting and countring carcoal pieces representative of the number of fires during various time periods, then graphing and analyzing the data.
  • Middle School - Pollen Analysis - Students learn about how to interpret pollen data from lake sediments and the various implications of why the vegetation changed through time, including changes in climate. This will be accomplished by collecting and counting various pollen types during different time periods and analyzing the data.
Program Duration: 60 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 5 minutes 

(PA State Standards: 3.4.4.A. Identify composition of soil as weathered rock and decomposed organic remains, describe fossils and the type of environment they lived in; 3.1.7.E. Identify change as a variable in describing natural and physical systems, explain how ratio is used to describe change; 3.3.7.D. Describe the role that fossils play in studying the past.)


Impacts of Climate Change (Grades 4-8)

Students will learn about the mechanisms behind climate change and how these mechanisms impact the Earth's landscape over time.

  • Elementary Level - Using a demontration of the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect, the students will collect, graph, and analyze their data over time. They will also observe landscape changes over time as a result from impacts of climate change, and they will match statements of common observations of climate change to graphed data.
  • Middle School - Students will conduct experiments representative of impacts of sea level rise, thermal expansion and glacial calving. They will collect and graph data, then analyze their final results. They will also observe landscape changes over time as a direct result of the impacts of climate change.

Program Duration: 60 minutes
Time Required Between Classes: 10 minutes

(PA State Standards: TBA)