Imagine that all students, regardless of
their school’s budget, can access a fully equipped, modern biotech lab.
On Tuesday, this becomes a reality when Labster launches, with the goal of “empowering the next generation of scientists to save the world.
So how is this possible? Inspired by flight simulators that have been used for decades and proven to successfully train pilots, the Labster team has set out to create the most ambitious Science simulation platform to date. In their virtual laboratory, students can perform advanced experiments by interacting with fully simulated interactive equipment.
Have you ever wondered how the standard biology excercises performed in thousands of schools around the world was selected? It’s basicly a compomise between learning efficiency on one side and cost, safety and time on the other. And often the latter wins. Every lab exercise need to be completed within a small timeframe, budget and without exposing students to an unsafe environment. This can often leads to boring and limited excercises.
Imagine a world where all those barriers didn’t exist, where lab experiments could be designed with purely student learning and motivation in mind. This was the basis for Labster, who set out to reimagine experimental science experiments by providing students with access to an advanced million dollar biotech lab, where time, safety and budget is not a concern, where lab machines never break-down just before the teaching session, and no chemicals need to be prepared.
Many universities including Stanford and Copenhagen University are now using Labster with great success. Kate Spohr, Education Manager at Berkeley states that “High schools, community colleges, and universities have an urgent need for innovative, effective and engaging teaching tools that teach core lab skills and concepts used in molecular biology. The self-paced nature of the Virtual Lab makes it particularly useful to a broad range of students from varied backgrounds.”
Expensive biotech labs to empower future scientists globally
Cutting-edge biotech experiments are not just expensive. They are insanely expensive. Take for expample a $700.000 Next-Generation Sequencing machine, with yearly maintenance costs of aroung $70.000. It is unnecessary to say that almost no students can experiment with machines like this in a real lab. But now all students with internet access can play with a machine like this, and they are even allowed to make mistakes worth $10.000 or perform machine ruining mistakes that they can learn from and avoid making in reality.
Now student’s at any school with internet access can learn advanced biotechnology, and Labster is in the process of initiating partnerships with universities in developing countries who have very limited laboratories if any. By providing them with advanced biotech teaching labs that are equally well-equipped as research labs at Harvard, Labster aims to dramatically increase the number of skilled biotech scientists that will contribute to solve the most important problems in the world.
However, Labster’s ambitions reach further than just replicating a real lab along with the many problems associated with lab teaching. For instance, most molecular processes are impossible to see by the naked eye. So in Labster, interactive molecular 3D animations show what happens when students manipulate DNA or performs next-generation sequencing. And it’s all topped off with quiz questions with interactive feedback to ensure students absorb as much of what they just made happen as possible.
In a traditional lab, students are most-often confined to following a pre-ordained cookbook recipe of the experiment that have been proven to be quite inefficient at increasing student learning. Therefore Labster was designed with an inquiry based approach, allowing students to choose their actions and make mistakes.
Proven learning efficacy
Labster has used continuous quantitative assessment of the learning outcomes to guide the development, and recent studies with third-party experts have shown that the use of Labster can increase student theoretical learning outcomes by 103% as an addition to standard lectures, along with increase in science process skills, understanding of scientific methods and motivation (results are being submitted for publication).
Limited free beta-accounts
Labster has made a limited number of free beta accounts available on a first-come-first-serve basis, where teachers can use all existing Labster cases and beta-test the new cases for the next school year –free of charge. To sign up, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with information on how you plan to use Labster.
Labster is a video game. A video game that actually teaches you how to perform Next Generation Sequencing, diagnose diseases through DNA, turn garbage into bioethanol, and even more. Not just theoretically, but hands on.
See, where students and bio-curious folk could never get access to hundred thousand dollar NGS machines and Electron-Microscopes or even HPLCs, they now have 24/7 access to a virtual laboratory full of them, and a knowledgeable assistant to show them how to use their new toys.
It's already being used by Stanford and Copenhagen University and many others to improve the learning speed & retention abilities of their students in, for instance, AP Biology, Molecular Biomedicine.