BROOMFIELD -- In a classroom science experiment Thursday, college-prep biology students at Legacy High School tested the growth potential of a bacteria strain.

The ninth-graders worked to harvest the bacteria, smearing the cells on agar plates -- one that contained no antibiotic, and a second that contained ampicillin. The third plate they worked with contained the ampicillin, plus a sugar that acted like a superfood for the bacteria to grow. If done correctly, they can expect to see tiny bright pink dots to indicate the growth.

As funding for public schools is squeezed, the high-tech lab in Ann Campbell's biology course represents a unique three-way partnership with a local community college and biotechnology company.

Front Range Community College is in its second year of a $186,000 grant from the Amgen-Bruce Wallace Biotechnology Lab Program. The program provides faculty training, equipment and packets of pre-designed science experiments at no cost to the participants.

The goal is to excite students about science, technology, engineering and math fields -- especially as there is a growing demand for people to fill those STEM jobs -- while also relieving some of the budget pressures from local schools.

For their part, instructors with Front Range Community College help train middle and high school teachers from across the state -- in areas including Boulder and Broomfield counties -- on how to integrate Nobel Prize-winning recombinant DNA technology into their curriculum. Through the partnership, more than 7,000 students have participated in the Amgen program across 15 school districts.

On Thursday, Front Range biology and microbiology professor Susan Northleaf helped carry out the bacteria experiment.

Campbell said her class sizes are growing while her budget is shrinking. Having the lab equipment on loan allows her to have money to make other purchases for her classes, including rats and squids for dissection projects, soil test kits for an outdoor experiment and replacing broken or outdated classroom instruments.

She said she's used three of the available eight lesson plans from Amgen.

"This helps a ton," she said.

State Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, was a guest in the Legacy classroom Thursday afternoon, talking briefly with the teens and observing the classroom experiments.

"I think it's critical to have the business community more involved with our education system," Primavera said.

She said it's important for students to know when they are choosing education and career paths in which industries are hiring.

The Amgen lab program was started in 1990 by Bruce Wallace, a molecular biologist who was one of Amgen's first staff members. The program has reached more than 250,000 students in the United States and United Kingdom, exposing them to the fundamentals of biotechnology.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.