If you are in charge of directing, managing, or overseeing a STEM lab, and you want to give your STEM lab meaning, you can do so by investing in the right equipment while cultivating the perfect learning environment. When a STEM lab is well-equipped, students are more likely to find inspiration directly in the lab, rather than seeking outside sources for ideas. The more welcoming your atmosphere feels to those who have a vested interest in pursuing a career in STEM, the easier it will be for you to give your STEM lab meaning once you are ready to open it to students and the public.
Why Every Higher Ed Institution Should Have a STEM Lab
From public charter schools to private institutions, there are many different locations around the world today that boast a STEM lab. Investing in a STEM lab for any higher education school is essential for those who wish to outperform other academic institutions in the same field or region. Some of the most notable advantages of having a STEM lab include:
- Access to Advanced Topics: Access to new topics to explore can spark inspiration, innovation, and motivation. Hands-on lab experience can also help students learn how to discuss their findings in a professional setting.
- New Skills: Not only will students develop technical skills, but they will also learn how to better apply problem-solving and critical thinking skills once they are in the real world.
- Future Career and Research Opportunities: Students who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM or additional internships may find it much easier to do so by attending the right STEM lab. STEM labs help facilitate the process of becoming familiar with the R&D, or Research & Development process of any type of business today.
- Career Prep: For those who are interested in becoming more prepared before pursuing a career in STEM, doing so in a STEM lab makes goals and career opportunities much more attainable.
The Risks Associated With STEM Labs
If you are currently in the process of investing in, building, or overseeing a STEM lab as a professor or chemist, it’s important to understand the common risks that are often associated with STEM labs themselves. Becoming familiar with the potential risks of a STEM lab is a way for you to mitigate fires, burns, and even electrical hazards as best as possible anytime you are conducting new experiments or allowing students to interact with harmful chemicals. Some of the most common risks associated with STEM labs today include:
- Fires: Fires can occur anytime combustible materials are combined under the right circumstances. Stocking a STEM lab with proper fire detectors, extinguishers, and prevention technologies is essential.
- Chemical Risks: Anytime you are working in a STEM lab there is an inherent risk of experiencing a chemical burn from overexposure. Proper labeling, storage, and ongoing safety training programs will help mitigate chemical burns while reducing the risk of students being exposed to harmful chemicals anytime they are working in or around the lab.
- Electrical Issues: Whenever you are using electrical gear or equipment to conduct experiments, it’s imperative to do so only once you have ensured you have proper grounding and wiring in place. Working with trusted, certified, and insured electricians is a way for you to protect your STEM lab before opening it to students or the public.
Anytime you are investing in or constructing a new STEM lab, you will likely want to turn to a professional legal adviser to ensure you are making the right decisions every step of the way. Retaining an attorney when you are building a STEM lab is a way to review contracts and written agreements before signing them, making purchases, or finalizing any new decisions when it comes to investments. The right attorney can also provide you with the resources you need to conduct thorough inspections of any STEM lab you intend to operate or oversee to ensure you are protected by the law once you begin conducting experiments and demonstrations.
Finding a lawyer who is well-versed in the field of STEM is possible by asking colleagues in STEM that you know for their recommendations when it comes to attorneys who have experience in the STEM fields. You can also take the time to seek legal representation near you online, where you can compare previous clients, cases, and relevancy in terms of experience. Finding a legal team that is well-seasoned when it comes to handling STEM labs and industry-related cases is essential for optimal protection legally and financially.
Safety Guidelines for Students and Teachers
If you want to give your STEM lab meaning and you also want to provide as much safety and protection as possible for both students and teachers who use the space, incorporating safety guidelines is a must. Whether you choose to implement non-user principals guides into the STEM lab or if you want to use traditional guidelines, it’s imperative to stress the importance of safety at all times for anyone who chooses to enter or use a STEM lab, regardless of their purposes for doing so or their intention of being there at the time. Ways to prepare students and teachers for safety when using a STEM lab include:
- First Aid Kits: Include first aid kits in your STEM lab that are readily available and easily accessible to both students and teachers, regardless of where they are located in the STEM lab at any given time.
- Training Courses: Provide on-site training courses for those who are new to working in STEM labs, such as first-year students.
- Supervised Monitor: Always provide professional monitoring anytime you are allowing students to work in a STEM lab you are overseeing, especially if they are doing so for the first time independently.
- PPE: Using PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, should always remain a top priority when you are heading a STEM lab for optimal protection. You will need to take the time to get to know more about the particular PPE you will require based on the type of STEM projects or experiments you intend to conduct in your STEM lab.
Start With Simple Experiments
If you want to give your STEM lab meaning, you can start by using simple experiments once the lab is complete and ready to be open to the public or local students. From experiments involving swimming pool PH and electricity to student-led experiments and problem-based learning experiments, there are many different ways to start using a STEM lab once it is properly prepared for work. Starting with simple experiments in a STEM lab is not only a way for you to minimize the risk for new students, but it is also a way for them to become much more comfortable any time they are working in a STEM-related environment.
Safe Equipment Is Great for Younger Students
If you want to give your STEM lab meaning, and you intend to host young students who are just learning about STEM for the first time, you will need to invest in proper safety gear and equipment that is designed for those who are younger. From using portable ceramic filters to stocking up on smaller gloves, goggles, and other lab gear, it’s important to ensure any safety equipment you provide is suitable for the age and size of the individual who will be wearing and using it.
Showcase Real-World Equipment and How It Functions
When you are determined to give your STEM lab meaning, you can do so by demonstrating how real-world STEM equipment functions and how it is properly managed and maintained. Showing off real-world STEM equipment and how it operates is a way for you to appeal to a much broader audience while providing students with a full hands-on approach and experience. Whether you are showcasing reverse osmosis replacement methods or you want to demonstrate new programming technologies in robotics, you can do so with the following methods:
- Hands-On Training and Experience: Hands-on demos can help students quickly become acquainted with relevant STEM equipment and gear they intend to use daily.
- Host Keynote Speakers: Hosting guest speakers including experts and STEM specialists from a variety of industries and markets can spark inspiration while providing students with a great introduction to the equipment in your STEM lab at the time.
- Webinars: The use of webinars and even remote virtual tours can also demonstrate the type of equipment you currently have in your STEM lab and intend to invest in at some point in the future. Using webinars and virtual tours can also provide students with the opportunity to learn more about any of the equipment they are interested in as it pertains to STEM at a later time or any time that is convenient for them, even when they are at home.
Engender Respect for Advanced Equipment
Giving your STEM lab meaning will require you to instill a level of respect among your students when it comes to handling advanced technologies and equipment. Whether your lab includes a custom metal laser or a highly technical microscope, providing safety guidelines and technical direction can go a long way in reducing the risks associated with damaging or breaking STEM equipment and gear. Demonstrating respect for STEM gear you use each day while you are working or experimenting is one of the best ways to pass on the behavior to other students who are also using the lab at the same time.
Bring Creativity Into the STEM Lab
Giving your STEM lab meaning will require you to get a bit creative from time to time, especially if you intend to spark motivation and inspiration among your students. When you want to bring creativity into the STEM lab, you can do so by providing stencils for etching metal and other creative artistic tools that will help your students get to work. Offering design challenges and encouraging your students to be as innovative as possible with their ideas and creations can help them truly find their passion in the STEM industries.
Prepare Students for Work in the Real World
STEM labs today are optimal for preparing students to work in the real world. When researching equipment such as microscopes, radiation devices, or even a motorized rotary table, be sure to consider how each investment will be ideal to help students you are teaching apply their learned skills in the real world. Choosing the right equipment for the STEM lab you are building or running is a surefire way to guarantee the success of your students and those you intend to teach once they are in the real world and seeking positions and job opportunities that are genuinely right for them.
The more prepared your students feel when they are familiar with STEM labs, the more likely they are to achieve their career-oriented goals once they have graduated. Preparing your students with a well-stocked STEM lab is a way to provide them with the tools they will need to succeed.
Help Students Design Functional Materials and Products
Modernized STEM labs can be extremely beneficial for those working in the science, engineering, and even healthcare industries, depending on their line of work. A well-equipped STEM lab can help students design functional materials and products that can then be produced and applied to the real world on a massive scale, especially in emergencies, natural disasters, or times of need. From learning about breathable TPE films for medical applications to better understanding how to mitigate chemical burns, there are many different ways that students will learn how to develop and design functional products, materials, and services once they are ready to do so with a full-time career in a STEM-related field.
If you’re determined to give your STEM lab meaning, and you want to encourage students to remain actively engaged with their studies and experiments, you can do so by learning more about the equipment that is most likely to benefit those in your lab. Investing time and money in new STEM equipment is not only a way to add value and appeal to your lab, but it will also ensure it has genuine meaning for those who attend courses, lectures, and demonstrations. The more interactive your STEM lab is, the easier it will be to attract an entirely new audience who may excel in the subjects.