UL’s Xplorlabs gives middle schools access to high-quality STEM learning modules

UL and Genuine have created a STEM-focused education program for middle schools.

Global safety science organization UL has launched a digital learning platform intended to serve as a complement to middle school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula with digital agency Genuine.

The program, UL Xplorlabs, includes a series of STEM-focused learning modules with interactive videos, instructional experiences and classroom activities and challenges, like Portable Electric Power. In this particular module, UL said students work through a simulated set of tests where they assume the role of a safety scientist, dropping and overcharging a hoverboard under various conditions to evaluate how well it holds up to the stresses of everyday life. A rep said a second learning module on Fire Forensics will launch in March or April.

According to a press release, middle school teachers can integrate the program into any lesson plan as all assets are aligned with US Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the K-12 science standards released in 2013 that are intended to provide US students with an internationally benchmarked science education.

UL said it worked with educators to audit each conceptual phase. UL and Genuine also worked with a third party educational consultant to ensure all content aligns with NGSS. And, as UL and Genuine continue to develop the platform, new topics, modules and capabilities will be added.

“In order to push this platform to the limits we had all set forth, our team had to integrate a wide variety of mediums and new technologies as vehicles for educational delivery,” said Joe Panepinto, senior vice president and director of strategy at Genuine, in a statement. “I think a lot of what went into this project was akin to what we would want to experience when learning about science. In a way, creating UL Xplorlabs brought out the kid in all of us.”

UL said it sought to create a platform that bridges the gap between the classroom and real-world engineering challenges to inspire critical thinking, solutions and sharing among middle schoolers.

“After discovering the prevalence of fundamental gaps in applied science learning, we were inspired to be a part of a project that could have a monumental impact on educational success,” Panepinto added.

Indeed, according to Genuine, over the past decade, studies have shown an increased demand for applied science learning in US middle schools. What’s more, the adoption of NGSS means schools and teachers are under increased pressure to implement approved lessons plans to help increase mathematic and scientific literacy. As a result, an absence of formal subject matter experts to educate on these concentrations has become more prevalent, UL said.

“UL’s mission is working for a safer world,” said Cara Gizzi, UL’s director for youth education and outreach, in a statement. “As such, UL has long been committed to increasing scientific literacy, discovery and student empowerment and UL Xplorlabs builds on this model by providing this flexible learning solution for educators and students alike, which we hope will serve as a springboard for deeper understanding, curiosity and robust classroom discussion.”

Genuine is a member of the IPG group of companies.

In a similar move, General Electric has committed $50 million to improve STEM education in public schools near its base in Boston.

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