Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education continues to be in high demand as employment in STEM-related fields is projected to grow by 8.9 percent from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6.4 percent growth for non-STEM occupations. However, to be successful in these areas, students need to develop problem-solving and processing skills taught in STEM education. This is why UL developed Xplorlabs, an interactive, educational platform designed to encourage students to “solve through science.”

Next generation problem solvers

Xplorlabs was created to take science outside the classroom and put it in the hands of the next generation of problem solvers.

The UL Xplorlabs module-based learning platform includes interactive videos, instructional experiences, hands-on classroom activities and creative classroom challenges. All of these elements align with the Next Generation Science Standards and are flexible complements to middle school science, engineering, and technology curricula.

The first module, Portable Electrical Power explores the science of lithium-ion batteries and the phenomenon known as thermal runaway which is when the rate of the internal heat generated in a battery exceeds the rate the heat can be expelled.

Students work through a Design Challenge that is based on a current real-world engineering safety challenge. The goal of the three-part challenge is to ultimately construct a safe enclosure for the lithium-ion battery in a hoverboard. Students investigate various materials, set up and perform testing, collect data, debate and advocate for tradeoffs, and ultimately design and redesign product if needed.

In the second module, Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence, students dive into the science of fire and the role of fire investigation. They learn to read fire scenes, build a claim for the fire’s location of origin and cause, and gain an understanding of fire, fire dynamics, and fire behavior.

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Students work alongside UL Fire Research Engineers Steve Kerber and Dan Madrzykowski, as well as UL Fire Project Engineer Kelly Opertfire, as a fire investigator-in-training to learn how claims, evidence and reasoning play into an investigation. Their skills are put to the test when they conduct their own independent investigation into the origin and cause of a fire, utilizing a dynamic, 360° view of a kitchen burn scene.

Both modules encourage students to use scientific inquiry to engage with new topics and inspire them to think like scientists. This engaging, educational platform covers topics that are relevant to students and leave them with a desire to further XPLOR!

To find out more about this free, high-quality educational resource, visit ULXplorlabs.org or follow @ULXplorlabs on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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