CaveSim STEM programs

CaveSim is a great addition to STEM programs for schools and parks. We teach hands-on lessons about all STEM subjects, as well as lessons about art, history, culture, and even physical education!
During a STEM program, kids and adults will have the opportunity to go through the cave simulator, which is 60 feet of artificial cave passage built into a 24 foot trailer.  We will help each participant to put on a real caving helmet with light.  The participants will go through the cave in groups of 2 to 4.  As they crawl through the cave, they will find artificial cave formations (stalactites, stalagmites, etc.), artificial cave life (salamanders, insects, a bat, etc.), and cave artifacts (pottery, cave paintings).  Before the participants go into the cave, we explain that their goal is to explore the cave without damaging the cave formations and without hurting the cave life and artifacts.  Each object that they bump into gives them a damage point on the computer (all of the cave formations and most of the cave life and artifacts have electronic sensors behind them).  Parents can watch their kids go through with the help of our night vision cameras.  The cave has multiple pathways for the students to explore, including an upper level that they can climb into using a rope ladder.  When participants come out of the cave, they can review their score on the computer.
While the participants wait to go through the cave, we do quick lessons and hands-on demonstrations of the following:
• Demonstrations with cooking oil and water to show why touching cave formations damages the formations.
• Hands-on demonstrations with cave rescue equipment, including a cave rescue stretcher and working cave rescue telephones.  Participants can talk to one another on the rescue phones.  We give simple explanations about how the phones work.
Demonstrations with a real bat skeleton, and discussions about how bats fit into the food chain.  Participants learn that bats eat insects, but also help our food supply by pollinating certain types of fruit.  Participants also learn about White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungus which is spreading across the US and devastating bat populations. CaveSim contains an artificial bat with electronic sensors - disturbing the bats counts against your score.
Lessons about cave paintings. We show pictures of cave paintings from around the world, and talk about the stories that the paintings tell.  One picture is from Hawaii, and participants learn about how the people on Hawaii shared culture with people on the mainland even in prehistoric times. CaveSim also contains a cave painting with embedded electronic sensors (see image below right) - getting even too close to the painting counts against your score!

Demonstrations with real carbide lamps.  Participants learn about chemical reactions, and about the history of cave exploration and mining.
    We also bring a "squeezebox" which kids and adults can crawl through while they wait.  Participants can adjust the height of the box to see how small a space they can fit through.  The lid of the box can easily be lifted to let a student out if they become uncomfortable.  Kids learn about measurement science by using a tape measure to measure the opening of the box.
    The images below (copyright Ken Ingham, used here with permission) are used during our lessons on the role of bacteria in cave development.
    Ferromanganese (corrosion residue) in Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns. Photo by Ken Ingham, used with permission.
    Scientist Armand Dichosa studies ferromanganese (corrosion residue) in Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns. Photo by Ken Ingham, used with permission.
    Ferromanganese (corrosion residue) in Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns. Photo by Ken Ingham, used with permission.
    "Marshmallow" mold on a grasshopper in Carlsbad. Photo by Ken Ingham, used with permission.
    Roots can penetrate through cracks in the rock and go 60 to 80 feet under ground.  Photo by Ken Ingham, used with permission.
    A bat with White Nose Syndrome. Image from
    BBC Slime Mold video shown during our biology lab programs.
    White Nose Syndrome Video by The Nature Conservancy shown during our epidemiology programs.
    Above, the US Fish and Wildlife Service uses a boat and a large-scale mist generator to spray bats with Decanal, a citrus-derived anti-fungal agent (see  The goal is to kill the White Nose Syndrome fungus without harming the bats.  The mist generator (fogger) is a device called a Dynajet, and was selected because it has the lowest noise output in the ultrasonic frequency range, thereby disturbing bats less than other similar devices.  In this video, bats are being treated in a flooded train tunnel, which was created in the 1840's and abandoned during the Civil War.  In this particular tunnel, the population of Tricolored bats has dropped from about 5000 to about 200 since White Nose Syndrome took hold.  This video was produced by Chris Cornelison (Kennesaw State University), and provided to CaveSim by Pete Pattavina (USFWS).
    A helpful paper about the use of guano in gunpowder production during the Civil War: