Collaboration Delivers Lab Kits To Hundreds Of Science Students

KIT physics and biologyLab kits are in the mail to 220 Physics students from around the world with a second set of kits soon to be shipped to more than 100 Biology students.

Students in PHYS 1A03 will do hands-on lab experiments at home thanks to course instructor Sara Cormier, PhD student Adam Fortais, Physics & Astronomy faculty members Kari Dalnoki-Veress and Laura Parker, and Carlos Figueira and Debbie Martin with Facilities Services.

The team developed, assembled and shipped the kits last week. The course is being delivered entirely online while McMaster’s campus remains closed due to COVID-19.

Instead of virtual labs where students watch videos and analyze data, the kits allow for hands-on learning through DIY experiments. Students will use the supplies in the kits along with their smartphones to measure acceleration due to gravity, refraction of water and friction forces, investigate energy transfer and loss and validate concepts like the conservation of energy and momentum.

To help students successfully carry out their experiments at home, the Physics team also shot how-to instructional videos and teaching assistants will offer online troubleshooting.

“Physics is learned by doing, not by watching,” says Kari. "We drew on best practices in teaching pedagogy to create DIY experiments that'll be both fun and educational for students."

A team in Biology is currently assembling lab kits to be shipped to up to 120 students enrolled in BIO1A03. The Biology kits are based on a term-long project-based lab and will include a paper microscope to study cheek cells along with reagents to carry out enzymatic experiments. Biology team members working on the kits include Alastair Tracey, Sajeni Mahalingham, Tracy Rerecich, Lovaye Kajiura and Rosa da Silva.

“Our colleagues in Physics and Biology took the initiative in thinking outside the box for students and then went above and beyond by filling hundreds of boxes with lab supplies,” says Dean Maureen MacDonald. “Our Faculty of Science is also grateful to everyone from across the University who fully supported this project at a time when everyone is already working full out. Students are getting a unique learning experience thanks to a McMaster-wide spirit of collaboration.”

Helping the Physics and Biology teams get the kits out the door were staff from Environment & Occupational Health Services, the Equity & Inclusion Office, the Office of Legal Services, Logistics & Mail Services, the McMaster Campus Store, Registrar’s Office, Strategic Procurement and the Provost’s Office.

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