Sometimes it’s okay to think inside the box

With a little ingenuity, LocknCharge laptop carts can easily be transformed into mobile STEM/STEAM labs

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is critical for the nation’s competitiveness, and it can help inspire students on a path to a successful career. According to one analysis, in 2016 there were more than a dozen STEM-related job openings posted online for every available STEM worker in the United States, which points to the dire need for more STEM professionals. What’s more, many jobs of the future will require at least some knowledge of key STEM concepts.

For these reasons, many educators are looking for creative ways to approach STEM education in their classrooms by engaging students with hands-on projects and learning activities. Technologies such as virtual reality headsets, 360-degree cameras, robotics kits, and 3D printers allow students to design, tinker, program, build, test, and troubleshoot as they put important STEM skills and concepts into practice.

These technologies can be expensive to buy for all classrooms. But an idea that’s catching on in a growing number of schools could help deliver hands-on STEM education tools to more students in a cost-effective way: mobile STEM labs.

Mobile STEM labs can be wheeled from classroom to classroom as needed. This lets K-12 leaders buy enough VR headsets, robotics kits, or other technologies for a single class, and then share the equipment among multiple classes within a single building, grade level, or department.

Some manufacturers offer specialised carts for transporting their STEM-related technologies, but again, these carts tend to be expensive. At LocknCharge, we’d like to suggest a more budget-friendly solution: By thinking ‘inside the box’, educators can easily transform LocknCharge laptop carts into mobile STEM labs that can transport mobile computing devices for students and hands-on STEM technologies at the same time.

The open design of our laptop carts allows educators to reconfigure the carts to transport many different kinds of technologies. Imagine wheeling a Carrier 30 Cart into your classroom that contains baskets of iPads and a charging case with six Sphero SPRK+ programmable robots. Students break into groups of four; each group has its own Sphero robot that students can program using the iPads from the cart’s baskets. Talk about a recipe for fun, engaging STEM learning!

A robotics-themed mobile STEM lab isn’t the only configuration possible with our laptop carts. Here are some other great ideas:

Virtual Reality Cart: This would include a classroom set of virtual reality headsets (like Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear VR) and mobile devices that fit inside the viewers. Using apps like Google Expeditions, Titans of Space, or Anatomyou, students could be transported on immersive journeys to places like Antarctica, the International Space Station, the planets of our solar system, or the inside of the human body. And if you add a 360-degree camera, students could use software like Wonda, Unity, or InstaVR to create their own immersive VR experiences!

Engineering Cart: This would contain a 3D printer and tablet or laptop computers for creating three-dimensional renderings (using software like Tinkercad or SketchUp) that students would bring alive with the printer.

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