2015 with Labster In Review, and Ahead to 2016

Last week marked exactly a year since joining what I believe to be an education group that can really make sweeping strokes to engage students in science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, and ultimately help them solve the challenges they face around them and in the future.

A Look Back On 2015

When I joined Labster January 19th, 2015, there were 20 people spread across 3 countries. At January 19th, 2016, we’re now over 50 spread across 5.

Over the year we welcomed some inspiring faculty, universities, schools, and thought-leaders to collaborate and partner with us. Of the over 100 pioneering universities and schools that joined us in some way over 2015, to mention a few include Harvard, Universities of Exeter, Westminster and Glasgow, Imperial College London, Brunel University, ETH Zurich, Auburn University — my father’s Alma Mater, Ruhr-Universitat, Boston Medical, York St John, and University College Dublin. Many of these have committed long-term partnerships with plans for thousands of students using our next-generation virtual labs each year, so faculty can reclaim the face-to-face lab time for richer, interdisciplinary collaborative projects.

They join an ever-increasing consortium that involves other long-time supporters — relationships with whom we strengthened further this year included MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Jackson State University, University of New England, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Technical University, Nangyang Technical University, and many more.

We became an affiliate of the Royal Society of Biology, and joined the Boards of global technology and education groups – thought-leaders in their own right — plus one of our Founders Michael Bodekaer did Labster’s first TEDx talk (hosted at CERN).

What unifies all the educators I spoke to this year is the dedication to the learner and vision towards their future. They look at how they can enable and engage students, and when done right, what the impact of that will be globally and for the future. They share our vision.

Personally, I was honoured to present this vision on stage at 11 conferences in 6 different countries (including once dressed as a Lobster). And got to visit the Large Hadron Collider and threaten to turn it back on and radiate us all. CERN have different definitions of fun than Labster, but I think they’re learning.

Each conversation I had with the thousands of students and teachers over the  year was immensely inspiring and uplifting — our future is definitely in good hands.

Icing on the cake are the multi-million dollar grants we received for research and development into Virtual Reality and adaptivity — to see how these technologies can evolve to empower the learner, and what the future of education could look like given the right approach.

Every day we reminded ourselves of the vision, to empower students to change the world. This truly was our guiding purpose for each decision we made, from the direction of our R&D, to the partners we chose to collaborate with, from the messages we shared around the world, to the people we hired to deliver those messages and turn our ideas into reality.

What a great year, summed up by this fortune cookie I got:

A Sneak Peak Into 2016

I can barely contain myself when I think about the possibilities for 2016.

First there are the grant-funded initiatives exploring VR, haptic feedback and adaptive learning. Apparently going to be all the rage in 2016, but will they be effective? We’ve got some interesting research planned. But then, what’s next? Augmented reality? AI? DIRECT BRAIN NEURAL CYBORG LEARNERS? Exciting times ahead.

Our simulations are expanding to cover 100 more topics in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering and Medical Sciences, so we can involve more students and teachers.

More universities will hopefully publish more peer-reviewed research in journals world-wide about the impact of our work on students, so we can learn more about the ever-evolving student.

We’ll start prototyping our lab builder — Labster’s answer to Lego blocks — to allow faculty and (hopefully) students to design, build and edit their own labs to practice problem solving and critical thinking. Imagine being able ask a student to solve a problem, or test a hypothesis, and have them be able to synthesise their own lab environment, choose their multi-million dollar equipment, techniques and reagents, then test a hypothesis and analyse the data? Then have them learn about responsible research and innovation along the way, as they try to solve the same problem faster, cheaper, with more accurate results or without animal test subjects.

For our partnerships, we want universities more involved in our work. We’ve collected some great feedback this year and will be implementing it through advisory boards, more closely collaborating on research and joint-grant funding opportunities, and other ways to future-proof universities against the technology tides.

What else? So much. Stay tuned.

If you’re interested in joining us on our exciting mission, don’t hesitate to check out our virtual labs and sign up for monthly updates!