Xplorlabs Team Attends STEM Summit

Friday November 3, 2018

It was a rather nice November day in Chicago; the sun made a cameo appearance and cut through the array of clouds hovering over the Windy City, traffic congestion was slightly less than the usual, and more importantly, it was Friday!  While the many students of Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School celebrated a day off, many Chicago area teachers looked for the next great STEM resource for their classrooms.

The UL Xplorlabs team of Deepa Shankar, Helen Kim, and Dennis Avelar attended their first ever STEM summit.  Along with them was Kristin Brynteson, Director of Professional Development of Northern Illinois University STEAM Works, who provided an educator’s perspective of each module.

The 8th Annual STEM Summit, presented by Northwestern Office of Community Education and Partnerships, and the Illinois Science and Technology Institute, had a core theme: building capacity and partnerships for STEM Education.  With this in mind, the UL Xplorlabs team had a perfect opportunity to talk directly to educators.  This opportunity not only gave the team a chance to address a motivated audience of teachers, it also allowed them to extend a hand to those teachers who searched for a partner to provide a real-life science resource in a manner that their students would both understand and appreciate.

Led by Deepa Shankar, the 45 minute presentation began with an introduction to UL, where the guests learned about the history of Underwriters Laboratories, work that is conducted by UL’s scientists and engineers, and the importance of UL’s mission to global safety.  Within minutes, the session that began with speaker introductions transitioned its focus on the science of lithium-ion batteries.  Having brought an actual hoverboard to the classroom and opening the device so that the audience could see its internal components, the team discussed how hoverboards presented a unique opportunity for Xplorlabs.

Knowing the popularity of the device, with the knowledge that it relies on portable electrical power, the hoverboard proved to be the perfect electronic apparatus upon which to base the introductory Xplorlabs module.  Many of the educators in the session were intrigued by the display, as well as the simplicity of how Module 1 explained  complex lessons in an engaging, entertaining, and educational way.

Before long, the presentation moved into the education realm, when Kristin Brynteson discussed how Xplorlabs – as well as its corresponding challenges and experiments – align with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.  Explaining the many benefits of how a free resource mutually benefits teachers and students alike, Brynteson gave teachers a perspective of Xplorlabs from that of a fellow educator.  Knowing how important it is to find high quality STEM resources in avenues outside of text books, she encouraged the educators to take a look at Module 1: Portable Electrical Power, and then ensured them that it would be all they would need to inspire them to use the module in their classrooms.

As the time for the presentation grew closer to the 45-minute limit, Shankar wrapped the session by giving the educators a short-yet-impactful overview of Module 2 – Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence.  As the team explained the design and concept of the second module – where students would get “up close and personal” with the science of fire and the role of fire investigation – the teachers became noticeably intrigued, some of whom were eager to explore it independently.  The session concluded with a first-hand view of the latest innovative STEM resource to be added to the UL Xplorlabs learning platform.

Walking away with a few small gifts, many of the teachers stayed behind to ask more about the website and asked for tips on how to implement the modules with their students.

Needless to say, the entire presentation was a great success, and the team is eager to go to their next big adventure!

From left to right: Helen Kim, Kristin Brynteson, Dennis Avelar, and Deepa Shankar.