LAB: Introduction to Virtual Computer Lab
Description: This lab teaches basic computer skills, in a modern, environmentally-respectful lab. Word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, and library reference are taught -- even if the site has no access to the internet.
Goal: Students learn the life-long competency to confidently create on a computer:
basic reports as well as fancy documents,
charts and tables, and calculations therein,
graphs and drawings.
search for info relating to school papers, technical questions, history, curiosity, and more.
Lab Equipment: STEMpower's Virtual Computer Lab provides ~30 workstations (each with keyboard, mouse, display monitor), connected through a "thin client" and network switch to a single powerful server computer running a Virtual Machine operating system. That configuration saves ~65% electric power, generates ~65% less waste heat, simplifies software updates and maintenance, prevents computer viruses, and lets the teacher track the progress of every student. If the internet is not available, the server will search its own extensive databank.
LAB: Introduction to Electronics Lab
Description: This lab surveys the field of electronics, by method of students applying the learned theory with actual electronic device components connected together on re-usable teaching platforms. The electronic device components range from simple resistors to programmable Arduino microcontrollers.
Goal: Students deeply learn practical electronic theory through hands-on experience of assembling their increasingly-sophisticated circuits. Students learn to design and implement their own circuit designs to help solve community problems. As a side benefit, students will naturally experience circuitry failures, and from failure they learn how to improve their circuit implementations.
Lab Equipment: Students utilize hand tools, e.g. wire cutters, screwdrivers, and pliers. They measure with instruments, e.g. multi-meters and oscilloscopes. They utilize electronic components, e.g. resistors, capacitors, transistors, integrated circuits, programmable microcontrollers, sensors, relays, servos, and motors. The students assemble those electronic components on re-usable teaching tools known as "solder-less breadboards" and "powered lab-platform trainers". In addition, they also learn how to solder components together, for better reliability.
LAB: Project-oriented Electronics Lab
Description: This lab lets students design and build their own circuits, in projects designed to solve community problems. If the student has not yet identified a workable problem, the mentor will help the student select a project. In any case, the student designs and builds a working model. The mentor is available for guidance, as needed.
Goal: Students endeavor to convert a project idea into a working model. Some working models can immediately solve a real community problem, whereas other working models serve as discussion starters for future projects. Even unsuccessful (or under-powered) completed models can serve as useful learning experiences.
Lab Equipment: Students access the STEM Center lab equipment, for which they have already had hands-on experience.
Pre-requisite: Introduction to Electronics Lab
LAB: Introduction to 3D Printing
Description: This lab teaches a good understanding of how to create physical objects, by using a machine such as a filament-based 3D printer. The student learns the fundamentals of the 3D printer, then learns the software used to draw a 3D design, then stores that design as a universal 3D STL format, then into a universal format called standard G-code, which is a universally-accepted industrial format understood by any 3D printer. To 3D print the object, the student then chooses: a direct data path from the design computer to the 3D printer, or an indirect offline path from the design computer to an intermidiary storage (an external memory drive) to the 3D printer.
Goal: Students can solve community problems by designing specific object parts, then manufacture those parts on a 3D printer. Students also learn how to rectify design faults; taking lessons from design faults, they iteratively improve their 3D designs.
Lab Equipment: 3D printing machine, various thermoplastic filament types, and desktop design computer.
LAB: Introduction to PCB Manufacturing *
Description: This lab teaches students how to create a custom Printed Circuit Board (PCB) for their electronic projects. Unlike their electronic projects built atop a reusable platform called a "breadboard", students create a custom PCB, which is a major step towards commercializing the electronic portion of their product. During that process, students advance their fundamental knowledge of electronic component theory by first drawing circuit schematics on a computer, followed by laying out the PCB footprint layout, while considering layer sets and design rule checks (DRC) and cross-probing. The theoretical circuit performance can then be simulated. If that performance is acceptable, The PCB design can then be confidently outputted as Gerber files and NC drill files, both of which are fed into a specialized CNC printer machine that manufactures the PCB.
Goal: Students learn how to produce their own printed circuit boards (PCB). Their prior basic knowledge of circuit design and breadboard assembly is upgraded into a reliable professional electronic creation, intended for mass production, to serve the industrial and consumer markets.
Lab Equipment: Students use a desktop printed circuit board (PCB) maker machine (Voltera V-one), along with public domain software, circuit board blanks, conductive inks, drll bits, and built-in reflow soldering station.
Pre-requisite: Project-oriented Electronics Lab
LAB: Introduction to Mechanics *
Description: This lab teaches basic mechanics (mass, motion, forces, energy) through the techniques of demonstration, practical hands-on application, assisted project work. Topics include measurement, motion, pressure, heat, simple machines, energy generation.
Goal: This course provides a strong basis for understanding the concepts of mass, force, types of energy, simple machines, renewable energy sources, and many more underpinnings of the natural world around us. Through experiments and activities, students learn the skills of analytical reasoning and calculative deduction. An enriched learning environment that engages student project work will inspire students to pursue promising careers in science and engineering.
Lab equipment: To measure mass, distance, motion, acceleration, collision, force, energy, heat, and the effect of gravity on projectile motion, the students use instruments, e.g., stop watches, spring balances, digital and analog Varnier calipers, thermometers, linear air track (with photo gates), and the classic "monkey and hunter" kit. The students also learn from hands-on simple machines such as pulleys, levers, screws, wheels, and axles. The students verfiy key mechanical priciples, e.g., Hooke's law, Newton’s law, Archimedes principle, etc. Educational kits help the student to learn about renewable energy sources, e.g., light, wind, and water.
LAB: Introduction to Optics *
Description: This lab teaches basic optics principles through hands- on optical devices and measurement. The curricula includes important fundamental concepts:
Light wave interaction (e.g., reflection, diffraction, refraction, interference),
Light beam propagation & image formation in mirror and lenses,
The relationship between light waves and sound waves,
Measuring the speed of sound,
The principles behind motion pictures,
Demonstrating how the human eye focuses incoming light,
Demonstrating data transmission over a fiber optic cable.
Real world applications are stressed, e.g., identifying the types of mirrors and lenses, as well as constructing solar ovens, solar panels, periscopes, pinhole cameras.
Goal: They mixed with practical measurement activity will result in an enriched and challenging learning environment. The student quickly becomes engaged in project work, encouraging the student to develop a quantitative way of observing the world around them. Some students may pursue careers related to human sight, machine vision, spectroscopy, LIDAR, or many other STEM-based technical careers. In any case, the student will be advanced by their learning & practicing of the universal analytical thought-process, their calculative skill-building through experiments, their keen observations, and their recording of natural phenomena.
Lab Equipment: Students use basic optical components, e.g. lenses, mirrors, prisms, light sources, laser pens, discarded corrective eyeglasses, often held stable with an optical bench-top table kit. Illustrative devices are constructed, e.g., perioscopes, telescopes, and kaleidoscopes. During lab setups, tools may be used, e.g. glass mirror cutters. Electronic instruments add to the depth of learning, e.g., digital microscopes and oscilloscopes.
LAB: Introduction to Chemical Engineering *
Description: This hands-on lab uses readily-available natural resources to produce value-added products that play an important role in students' daily lives. Starting from raw inputs like plant seeds and stalks, students make real products like soap, biodiesel and paper. Hands-on lab ctivities include the building of customized miniature chemical factories.
Goal: Students connect molecular structure with product function, while processes are evaluated economically. Students gain deep understanding of STEM, by weaving chemistry science with engineering, economics, manufacturing, environmental, cultural, and safety issues.
Lab Equipment: We have miniaturized and greatly reduced the cost of chemical engineering facilities, by using a custom-assembled kit of small pumps, kitchen stainless steel reactors, hand mixers, silicone molds, and chemical separation units. The kit uses low-voltage electrical power distribution where practical. Safety is further assured through the use of home kitchen electrical appliances and careful selection of materials of low toxicity and flammability.
Note: Labs named with an asterisk ("*") are available at selected STEM Centers.