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PocketLab at the Ed Games Expo: Fourth Graders Can Be Engineers Too!

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Submitted by PocketLab on Mon, 02/04/2019 - 19:04

Fourth grade students, high schoolers, and even the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education were putting on their engineering hats to investigate highway safety with PocketLab, last month.

At PocketLab, our passion is to educate students about the incredible world of science! We are working with the Department of Education's Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) to study how PocketLab and hands-on science activities can improve student learning and attitudes towards science. We’re excited about our IES research project because it combines rigorous academic assessment of PocketLab with the fast-paced development cycle that we try to accomplish.

As part of our project, we traveled to Washington D.C. for the ED Games Expo to do science experiments with local middle school and high school students. The students had a great time investigating the forces in a car crash using PocketLab Voyager and a Hot Wheels track (pictured below).


Student experimenting with PocketLab.

The students set up the Hot Wheels track so the car (a PocketLab Mini HotRod with an attached PocketLab Voyager) would roll down the ramp and crash into a barrier or another car. The PocketLab measured the impact of the crash and students built crash cushions and bumpers to try to reduce the impact force of the crash. This “Crash Cushion” lesson had students testing their hypothesis, iterating on designs, and discussing ideas about force, motion, and momentum. Seeing so many students engage in the investigation with such curiosity was truly inspiring. 

We were also able to meet with Dr. Mitchell Zais, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, to demo PocketLab and talk about science education. Dr. Zais originally graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering, so he was very interested in how the sensors in PocketLab worked. 

PocketLab meets with the US Deputy Secretary of Education

Some of the cool things we saw and key takeaways from the Expo:

  • Virtual reality and augmented reality experiences were a huge hit with the students and enabled students to explore ocean life underwater with Killer Snails (link) or do chemistry experiments in space with HoloLAB (link).
  • Students gravitated towards tangible and dynamic experiences like dancing, playing virtual instruments, and watching 3D prints come to life.
  • New strategies and tools for teaching are emerging from academia but the process is longer and more gradual than we knew. We talked with some professors that had spent 10 years developing interventions that they were just starting to move from research to practice. Being in the startup community where change happens every week or every month, that completely surprised us!

We’re excited about our project with the Institute of Educational Sciences and working with our research partners WestEd. We will share progress and results as we move through the project.

Check out the video of the ED Games Expo to see what it was like: 

Students demo PocketLab at the Ed Games Expo