Lab-in-a-box and remote experiments: Education news from Imperial

Here’s a round up of education updates from across Imperial.

From bespoke portable labs-in-boxes for undergraduates to remote access to lab equipment, here are some education highlights from the College.

Lab-in-a-box

The Department of Chemistry has dispatched hundreds of bespoke, portable labs-in-boxes to undergraduates across the globe.

The kits cover two first year experiments which have been redesigned to optimise them for a remote setting, maintaining key elements and learning outcomes.

Dr Luke Delmas, Teaching Fellow in Culinary Chemistry and Education, redesigned the Introduction to Synthesis experiment, which usually involves the use of volatile solvents and fume cupboards. He said: “We’ve aimed to give our students an authentic lab experience remotely, sending them bona fide scientific equipment. There’s a huge advantage in building confidence handling this kit in your own time, in a familiar setting before getting into a ‘real’ lab.”

The remote labs are supported by synchronous online introductions and demo and drop-in support sessions.

One student who completed the Chemical Kitchen experiment, redesigned by Culinary Education Designer Jakub Radzikowski, said: “As someone for whom practicals were never my strength, this course really helped consolidate the basic principles of lab skills and expose me to the equipment one would use in a proper lab. Being able to make something edible was a huge plus as well!”

Students conduct remote experiments

Teaching Lab Technician Ivan Hermida Estornell, from the Department of Physics, has designed a bespoke combination of hardware and software that allows students to gather their own data from a lab on campus, even if they’re studying remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This technology allows students to reset the lab at any point and begin the experiment again if they need to”, says Ivan. “It also means they have access to research grade instrumentation from wherever they are. And they’re all over the world – they could be in China, America, Australia – the remote functionality of the printed circuit board means that the lab can be accessed over a much-extended time frame providing greater flexibility for those working in different time zones.”

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