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What is Lab4U?
Andrea, High School Student, Sinaloa, Mexico
What we do? Smartphone technology is increasingly ubiquitous among young people, with penetration rapidly increasing in low-income communities in the developing world. Lab4U takes advantage of the powerful built-in sensors of these devices (accelerometer, camera, microphone, etc.) to transform smartphones into learning tools. Lab4U allows students to gather, view, manipulate and analyze experimental data in real time through the use of an engaging mobile app, without the need for expensive external sensors or equipment. This technology is paired with rigorous, inquiry-based lab reports and class plans that accompany each experiment available on the mobile app. Lab4U works tirelessly to ensure learning experiences are adapted to the needs and unique contexts of the communities it serves and works closely with teachers to ensure we reach our vision: that all students, regardless of their background or socioeconomic level, have the opportunity to learn and be inspired by science.
So far, more than 100,000 students and teachers have used Lab4U's products, primarily in Chile, Mexico, and the United States. Currently, Lab4Physics and Lab4Chemistry are available for students aged 13-18, with Lab4Biology and Lab4Science (late elementary and middle school) currently in development. In a 2018 Randomized Control Trial (RCT) in Sinaloa, Mexico, Lab4Physics was shown to have a positive and significant impact on physics knowledge, student self-perception, and interest in studying STEM in the future.
Why we do it? Inequity in the public education system is especially pronounced in science, where learning by doing is key. Unfortunately, lab-based classes require lab infrastructure, which is beyond the reach of many schools due to limited space, and high equipment and maintenance costs. In Latin America, our home region, up to 88% of schools lack science labs and many teachers lack certifications in the subject areas they teach. As a result, most young people have a theoretical science education, which is uninspiring at best and may contribute to disinterest, disengagement, and high dropout rates. It also leads to low scientific literacy and lack of interest in STEM careers in many regions of the world, at a moment when STEM knowledge and skills are more important than ever.
We believe all students have the right to an engaging, rigorous, and relevant science education. Through our work, we seek to unlock the full potential of the young people in Latin America and the world by developing high-impact, low-cost tools to democratize access an engaging and meaningful science education and allowing millions of students living healthier, happier, more informed and productive lives. We believe the next Einstein or Marie Curie could be in a classroom anywhere in the world. Discovering her is a matter of inspiring her.
What we're working on: Currently, Lab4U is expanding our curricular coverage in physics and chemistry to deepen our support teachers and learners. We are also developing Lab4Biology to allow students everywhere access to a microscope in their pocket. Lab4Science, scheduled for launch in late 2020, will allow late elementary and middle school students and their teachers to access our inquiry-based tools and content, allowing Lab4U to become a solution for young people at all stages of their educational journey in science. We're also deepening our partnerships in the public and private sectors, which will allow us to reach tens of thousands of students in the coming year. We're especially interested in partnerships that will allow us to deepen our impact in public schools in Chile, Mexico, Latin America, and beyond.