With HP Grant, OSEP Will Build Mobile Apps for High School Students to Access Remote Labs

With HP Grant, OSEP Will Build Mobile Apps for High School Students to Access Remote Labs


The Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) received a $100,000 grant from HP to build mobile app interfaces for remote science laboratories. OSEP’s remote laboratory program allows high school and middle school students to run science experiments with online access to scientific equipment at universities worldwide.

With the new HP Catalyst Leadership award, OSEP will also provide teacher workshops on using the remote web-based science labs and expand its Project Access classroom loaner program for tablets and probeware. Project Access provides much-needed technology to middle and high school STEM classrooms and labs throughout the Chicago area. 

Authentic science
With the mobile app project, OSEP will explore the potential of smartphone and mobile access to remote online labs, which provide authentic scientific learning opportunities. In collaboration with the British Columbia Integrated Laboratory Network at Thompson Rivers University, OSEP will develop a new analytical chemistry remote online lab where high school students will be able to access scientific equipment based at Thompson Rivers.

To date, OSEP’s remote online laboratory program has served 4,760 middle and high school students worldwide. The HP tablet and Fourier probeware loaner program component of Project Access has so far served approximately 1,200 students in the Chicagoland area, with 900 more joining in the 2012-13 school year. Project Access supplies computers to students that they can use in the lab or classroom to access online science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula and cyberlearning resources offered through OSEP and other providers.

Evaluations of OSEP projects indicate positive results. A trial of nearly 1,000 high school students conducted in 2009 demonstrated a 15 percent learning gain in both science content and process skills with online labs and their associated curricula. In addition, students and teachers report an overwhelmingly positive response to the online labs, tablet and probeware loaner program, and accompanying curricula for real-world STEM learning and lab experiences. 

Closing the digital divide
A key obstacle faced by many of the urban schools is lack of access to classroom technology needed to implement cutting-edge, inquiry-based STEM programs. OSEP is working to help close the “digital divide” for schools that do not have easy access to technology and are therefore limited in their ability to provide high-quality STEM teaching and learning resources to their students. Mobile computer labs allow OSEP to broaden student access to and deepen their experience with technology and online STEM programs and resources. Remote online laboratories allow students to have remote access at any time to cutting-edge laboratory equipment.

The new HP grant supplements previous grants from the Hewlett-Packard Catalyst Initiative, the National Science Foundation and Google that have helped Northwestern University acquire HP tablet laptop computers and Fourier sensors, as well as develop curriculum and train teachers. 

The mission of Northwestern University’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) is to connect K-12 students and teachers to the world-class science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resources of Northwestern University and beyond. Under the direction of the School of Education and Social Policy professor Kemi Jona, OSEP programs include professional development workshops for teachers, mentoring programs for teachers and students, inquiry-based STEM learning programs for students and partnership initiatives between Northwestern University and K-12 schools and other organizations. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/7/17