Solar-Powered BioBus Wows Students at Times Square School

By Mathew Katz on March 8, 2012 7:44pm 

The BioBus runs on solar, wind, and organic power.
The BioBus runs on solar, wind, and organic power.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — It may not be the Magic School Bus, but students at the Holy Cross School were still amazed by the solar-poweredBioBusthat rolled up to their school on Thursday.

The 1974 San Francisco Transit bus — powered by solar panels, a tiny front-mounted wind turbine, and using cooking oil from nearby Tulcingo del Valle restaurant — contains an entire science lab inside to teach students about biology.

"The only thing close to this is a regular bus — but that's not powered by the sun," said 13-year-old Marc. "It's like bringing the museum to us!"

The bus' three-person staff spent the day teaching first- through eighth-graders from the school about daphnia, tiny plankton-like crustaceans used by scientists to test water for contaminants.

"They're called an indicator species," said Sarah Weisberg, a scientist with BioBus. "They're really sensitive to pollution — they don't survive well in polluted water."

Throughout the day, students delighted at viewing the crustaceans move under the bus' various microscopes. Several seventh-graders squealed with delight — and disgust — when Weisberg used a $70,000 electron microscope to zoom in on the daphnia's spindly legs and view individual cells.

"Gross! I can see the skin," shouted one girl.

"It looks like a peanut," said another.

Last year, Holy Cross on West 43rd St. was in danger of being merged with the nearby Sacred Heart of Jesus School. That merger was put off — at least temporarily — but parents still want to show off the interesting programs put on by the 125-year-old school.

"This is great, it actually lets the kids come and see how it all works," said Eva Leclercq, a parent who's devoted herself to keeping the school at its current location.

Students also got to operate some of the equipment themselves, giving them hands-on experience that parents said is rare these days.

"Seeing the daphnias in a microscope instead of a textbook was so cool!," said 12-year-old Sandy, after stepping off of the bus.

"I want it to drive back here every day!"

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