Feature Story | 11-Jun-2024

PolyU invented Borderless Lab 365 creates a new way of remote STEAM learning

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

A challenge in promoting STEAM learning among students in Hong Kong has been the lack of sufficient laboratory resources. Dr JIM Kwok-lung, Lecturer of the Department of Applied Physics of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and his research team developed a "web-based laboratory platform" for primary and secondary schools. 

This web-based remote platform, named Borderless Lab 365, enables school students to independently conduct experiments anytime, anywhere, with computerised control over experimental parameters to minimise errors. This cutting-edge STEAM learning platform has secured a funding support of HK$14 million from the Quality Education Fund e-Learning Ancillary Facilities Programme by the Education Bureau. 

Borderless Lab 365 has been implemented in 15 secondary schools, and this funded programme is planned to extend to more than 45 primary and additional secondary schools to support students’ STEAM learning activities. It allows students to access and remotely control numerous laboratory instruments through micro-controllers and sensors, as well as download real-time data for experiment results.

Dr Jim said, “My goal is to establish a cross-school network of experiment platform that enables students to share their home-designed science experiments with others across secondary schools. This would diversify the range of science experiments available in each school and reduce development costs simultaneously.”

Borderless Lab 365 was originally developed and further enhanced by Dr MAK Chee Leung, a retired Associate Professor of the Department of Applied Physics and his team to deliver higher compatibility in conducting a wider range of disciplinary experiments. The mechanism requires teachers to design the experimental process on the system prior to students making appointments and using any of the laboratory devices. As a result, students gain the ability to explore a wide range of topics, such as interference phenomena, the visible spectrum, and greenhouse gases, which span across the fields of physics, chemistry, and biology. Additionally, teachers can create online assignments for students.

In order to provide a STEAM-focused education to a larger number of students, Borderless Lab 365 takes an additional stride by granting users access to designated devices through smartphones. This feature empowers students to conduct simple experiments using the sensors on their phones, enabling them to measure the velocity of sound waves, temperature, and the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in their surroundings. 

Moving forward, the research team aim to enhance the capabilities of Borderless Lab 365 by incorporating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies into future experiments.

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