The Institute - June 2021 - 66

Proof of concept
Virtual labs might seem like a new
concept, but Orduña and Rodriguez-Gil
have been working in the field for more
than a decade.
The two founders met in Bilbao
at the University of Deusto. They
worked on remote hands-on labs
as part of the university's WebLabDeusto
research group. LabsLand,
which launched in 2015, is a spin-off of
the WebLab-Deusto group.
" We saw that as our university's
[remote lab] was growing, there were
some [pieces] missing, and [it also]
needed technical and organization
support, " Orduña says.
Instructor feedback
Dominik May, an assistant professor
and education researcher in the Engineering
Education Transformations
Institute at the University of Georgia,
in Athens, says that even before
the pandemic, several electrical and
computer engineering classes had
started using remote labs in addition
to traditional in-person labs. Now, he
says, LabsLand provides several of the
college's labs, which are used for teaching
electronics and circuit design as
well as chemical engineering courses.
" Our aim is to not only integrate
remote labs into courses as some kind
of additional service, but also we see
that online labs have the potential
to be transformative for engineering
education as a whole, " May says. " They
are a perfect way to customize learning
experiences and to prepare students for
an environment in which remote working
is becoming more important. "
Engineering professors who were
teaching digital design using fieldprogrammable
gate array boards at
the University of Washington in Seattle,
started looking for ways to make the
boards available to students.
Rania Hussein, a UW assistant
professor, says the school shipped
lab kits to students, but some sent
Students at the Universidad Publica de Navarra in Spain, gained experience with
LabsLand's remote labs during class before the COVID-19 pandemic.
overseas were lost in customs. The
IEEE senior member teaches electrical
and computer engineering
technology. The labs are offered
jointly to electrical engineering,
computer science, and engineering
students. They serve " a large number
of students, " she says.
Hussein says switching to remote
labs allows students to get the same
experience as in an actual classroom,
and at their convenience. The instructors
can access the students' work
by viewing their demonstration via a
webcam. For example, a teacher might
ask a student to flip a switch to see
LEDs turn on or check that a counter
is working correctly. These are the
same assessments they would conduct
in face-to-face classes.
" Students are everywhere now in
the world. [When] they cannot be
on campus, they still need to do the
These are just some of the 40 labs available: * AC electronics
* Arduino robot * Buoyancy * Electronics * High-pass filter
circuit board * Luxometer * Optics * Radioactivity * Sonometer
* Thermographic cameras
JUNE 2021
labs, and they still need access to the
hardware. We needed a reliable and
sustainable solution for this, " Hussein
says. " That's why I believe educators
need to think differently given the new
circumstances such that they provide
the same experience as much as possible
to the students without the hassle
of the logistics. "
Hussein deployed eight FPGA
boards at UW for her digital design
class. They are integrated into the
LabsLand network. This year she plans
to expand their collaboration.
LabsLand is supported by Arch
Grants, Impact EdTech, and BBK
Venture Philanthropy.
The startup recently received an
award from the Global Online Laboratory
Consortium, which promotes
the development and research into
remotely accessible laboratories for
educational use.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro
Sánchez cited the company in a recent
presentation about the country's entrepreneurs.
" This company has proven
to be a great example illustrating
that there is no barrier to education, "
Sánchez said.

The Institute - June 2021

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