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An undergraduate introductory science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) class can be a jarring disappointment to new students expecting to work with cutting-edge, real-world technology. Their cell phones are often more technically advanced and real-world than the tools used in a class lab. Not surprisingly, many complain that the STEM labs are dull and antiquated. To address these issues, the authors have created an online lab where students can interact via the Internet with tracking solar panels and solar power measurement tools at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Renewable Energy (RE) Lab in Mountain View, CA. The authors evaluate the impact of using real-life, real-time, real-world solar data on student learning. In identical pre- and post-lab quizzes taken before and after students performed the lab, two thirds of errors made on the pre-quiz were corrected on the post-quiz.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2012