UL and Genuine Team Up to Engage Middle-Schoolers Through Digital Learning
Enlisting the next generation of problem solvers to burn, blow up and crush products to make the world a safer place
With the passage of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the demand for scientific literacy has never been higher. But today’s teachers are struggling to find materials exciting enough to open students’ eyes to the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to today’s innovations and tomorrow’s careers.
UL approached Genuine with the challenge of creating a hands-on digital platform that will encourage middle school students to see science and engineering for what they are: an exciting opportunity to understand and solve problems in the world around them. Inspired by UL’s Testing Labs where safety scientists burn, blow up, stress, and crush familiar products like batteries and hoverboards to ensure they’re safe, UL and Genuine created XplorLabs, a virtual safety science learning platform.
Starving for STEM
The decision to develop a hands-on digital teaching platform was grounded in research with middle school teachers, students and curriculum experts – all of whom are starved for a fresh approach to STEM – and engaging materials that treat it as a way of thinking through problems in the real world.
Watch, Burn, Learn, Repeat
Given UL’s mission, “Working for a Safer World,” the strategy was to utilize the most exciting elements of safety science -- the extreme nature of the tests themselves -- and connect them to basic STEM subjects, scientific literacy, and the innovations students see all around them.
The Genuine team of strategists, art directors, UX designers, videographers, animators, and developers invented together with experts from UL’s Non-Profit Youth Education & Outreach Group and outside curriculum experts to design an open access online learning experience. Every element of ULXplorlabs.com aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and is designed to be experienced in any order, and complement any curriculum.
We Made Digital Learning Hands-On
Featuring engaging interactive learning modules that focus on relevant STEM subjects, the platform delivers interactive video, online experiences, hands-on classroom activities and crowdsourcing challenges. The platform immerses learners in an environment where breaking things, blowing things up, poking, stressing, and burning are required in order to solve the challenge or problem at hand.
The experience also enables teachers and students to incorporate scientific inquiry to ask why a phenomenon happens, connect that phenomenon with real-life engineering challenges, and apply relevant safety science that help foster solutions.
Thermal Runaway and Exploding Hoverboards
The first Xplorlabs learning module is centered around lithium ion batteries, and the possibilities and problems surrounding portable electrical power. Through an interactive series of activities, students experiment with virtual hoverboards, and become educated on the potential dangers associated with their batteries, along with best practices for safety and use. On the platform, students conduct a simulated set of tests while assuming the role of a safety scientist, dropping and overcharging a hoverboard under various conditions to evaluate how well it holds up to the stresses and abuses of common use.
Genuine and UL are currently rolling out this module and others to teachers and young learners nationwide in hopes of inspiring them to use engineering processes and scientific knowledge to examine and solve challenges that threaten progress and innovation.