Shipping Container STEM Labs Head to Maryland and Texas

A nonprofit that develops STEM education programs has come up with portable learning spaces housed in shipping containers. The first new "Drop Anywhere Labs" will head to middle and high schools in Maryland and Texas this school year. The labs, which are produced by Learning Undefeated, an organization that serves high-needs communities with STEM experiences for students, are also intended to provide pop-up spaces for schools recovering from disasters.

The labs blend laboratory equipment and technology for augmented reality and game-based learning to support multiple themes: science, health, sustainability, technology, engineering and construction, energy and advanced manufacturing. Gear includes computing devices, virtual reality headsets, wind turbines, volt meters, microscopes, dissecting kits, microcentrifuges and general chemistry laboratory equipment.

"These new mobile labs serve as flexible laboratory and classroom space that triples our current capacity, enabling us to serve more than 80,000 students annually," said Brian Gaines, CEO of the nonprofit, in a statement. "Through our wide-ranging mobile lab program, we can provide equitable access to technology, and a solution to help schools more quickly regain normalcy following a natural disaster."

This isn't Learning Undefeated's first mobile STEM operation. The organization introduced the first mobile lab program for Maryland high school students in 2003 with its MdBioLab, a mobile disaster recovery STEM education program serving schools hit by hurricanes and other disasters. The larger Mobile eXploration Lab came out in 2017. Learning Undefeated said its mobile labs have served 200,000 K-12 students in 18 states to date, three-quarters of them from low-income school districts. Its Texas initiatives alone have reached 15,000 students in disaster-struck communities in 12 school districts.

With the three labs, Learning Undefeated projected that it would be able to serve an additional 60,000 students each year.

Funding for the latest project ($2.45 million) came from a number of supporters, including the states of Maryland and Texas, the Rebuild Texas Fund, the Qatar Harvey Fund, Toyota USA Foundation and pharma company AstraZeneca.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.