STEM Labs follow a sequence of learning experiences. The learner is asked to do the following:
- Create a build or an artifact.
- Explore the build or the artifact and speculate as to its possible application in the real world.
- Learn by doing.
- Make changes to a design or a build to improve and enhance it.
- Assess knowledge.
Each engineering-focused STEM Lab begins with instructions for creating a working build or guidelines for an original design. If building from a set of given instructions, learners should be given ample time to follow the step-by-step instructions for creating the build whether individually or in small groups. After creating a design or build, learners are asked to test what it does. Learners are told to experiment with the build and answer various questions, such as what it does, how it might be used, what if any mechanical advantage it affords, and how to explain the build using engineering terms. Learners are directed to answer these questions within their engineering notebooks because the intent is to have their answers be available for review and feedback. The amount of time allotted to this portion of the STEM Lab can vary depending on whether time permits and whether all groups of learners are proceeding at the same rate.
The play section within a STEM Lab begins with a brief reading that provides a context for the concepts or skills within the activity. A short procedure may follow to explore the new skill or concept introduced. Most often, learners will return to testing their builds to recognize some feature of its design but there are many different types of activities that they may complete. Some STEM Labs will focus on a single activity by having only one reading and one procedural activity, but most have more than one activity so that multiple concepts or skills can be introduced and more complicated concepts can be explored.
This section is where learners are provided with examples of how the concepts they are being introduced to applies to their daily lives. They are also offered a look into the application of those skills in the competitive aspect of robotics and engineering.
After learning about the concepts within the build, learners are given the opportunity to explore further with their build through a challenge. After creating the environment for the build, students may need to modify their build for success. Most of the challenges are competitive in nature and foster hands-on learning. Learners are directed to record and justify the changes they make in their engineering notebooks. Questions are posed to ask about both the design and testing phase. The amount of time allotted to this portion of the STEM Lab can vary depending on the scope of the challenge.
At the end of the STEM Lab, learners are asked questions about the concepts taught throughout the lab. Questions can be printed if they are to be completed by hand and turned in for a grade. Most questions are multiple-choice or true-false. Whether working in teams, group, or classroom settings, the answers to the questions can be discussed to make sure that all learners recognize the correct answers and why they are correct. Answers are provided in the STEM Lab Preview page.
Organize small groups or teams to promote functional collaborations when a STEM Lab is being used in a classroom or any environment with many learners.
Extend the Apply and Rethink sections for longer periods of time to allow learners who are not proceeding at the same pace to catch up.
Use the pages in the Appendix section as supplements to guide learners' efforts if they are having difficulties completing a build or activity.