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PocketLab Wins Yale Education Business Plan Competition

By Charley Locke     May 7, 2014

PocketLab Wins Yale Education Business Plan Competition

If Galileo had access to PocketLab, he could have saved someexplanation at the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Luckily, next time youwant to share your proof that time of descent is independent from mass, ormeasure the forces exerted on a Nerf ball during free fall, there’s a new toolavailable, funded by the Yale Education Business Plan Competition.

ThePocketLab sensor, which won the eighth annual conference’s Education BusinessPlan Competition on April 4, measures force, acceleration, velocity, position,tilt, barometric pressure, altitude, magnetic field, humidity, and temperature.By attaching it to objects, students will be able to measure data from scienceexperiments and transmit their findings to a PocketLab cloud server, enablingclassrooms around the world to compare results. “Instead of just showing peoplewhat falls faster, a brick or a feather, you can actually just throw thePocketLab out the window, and it will record measurements that you can use tounderstand what’s going on,” said Aaron Feuer, a judge on the panel at Yale.

Proposalsfrom PocketLab, Million Dollar Scholar, and HomeRoom, selected as the top threeapplications by the Yale Education Leadership Conference team, were consideredin the Business Plan Competition. The competition supports education reformthrough entrepreneurship by awarding up to $10,000 for seed proposals. Thisyear, it was moderated by EdSurge’s own Tyler McNally, and judged by AaronFeuer, CEO of Panorama, Sarah Ham, an associate at DBL Investors, BenWallerstein, Co-Founder of Whiteboard Advisors, and Kerry Gallagher, a socialstudies teacher at Reading Public Schools.

Clifton Roozeboom, Adrian Albert,and Michael Ramos-Lynch came up with PocketLab in a management science graduateschool course at Stanford, where the three founders respectively studymechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and law and management science.  Ramos-Lynch, who taught high school studentsin Texas through Teach For America, explained the dynamics of their team. “Clifis the hardware guy, Adrian is the software guy, and I’m the education guy,” hesaid. Speaking from his experience as a teacher, Ramos-Lynch sees PocketLab asaddressing “the achievement gap related to STEM fields” by making scientificconcepts more personally relevant to students.

Several other sensors already onthe market also aim to do so through data collection, analysis, and sharing. NationalInstruments LabVIEW and the Arduino microcontroller platform offer a similarfunctionality and network as PocketLab, but are designed for engineers andscientists, rather than students with less expertise. Many widely used interactivelearning tools, like Leap Frog, do not offer a social network, as PocketLabhopes to provide through their cloud interface. The Vernier LabQuest2 offersthe same tools for collecting and sharing sensor data as PocketLab, but costssubstantially more, at $329 per device.

At a cost of $50 for the hardware and$10 annually for the cloud software, PocketLab aims to make these opportunitiesaccessible to students of all economic backgrounds. “Using off-the-shelfcomponents, and components that go into commercial electronics, we can reallydrive down that price,” Roozebloom explained. Ramos-Lynch added that theirsupplies would also make PocketLab more durable, especially important inschools with less resources to replace tools. “When you’ve got a high schoolclassroom of 20-40 students, PocketLab is a lot easier to safeguard than theother competitors, which are generally flimsier and way more expensive,” heexplained.

With the funding from the EducationBusiness Plan Competition, PocketLab’s founders have made twenty prototypes,and will be testing them within Palo Alto classrooms in the next few weeks.“Our first prototype works best for a high school level understanding ofphysics, technology, or engineering,” Ramos-Lynch said. For initial livetesting, they’re developing lesson plans to roll out with the product. Thesesample cases--“how a ball bounces, or what motion you see if you hang a weightfrom a spring, or if you take a car and crash it into a wall, what forces wouldbe involved in that impact,” Ramos-Lynch continued--aim to help teachersintegrate PocketLab into high school science curricula.

In future products,they plan to broaden PocketLab’s usability to classrooms from kindergartenthrough college, and open up the platform to development by other programmers, whichwould enable teachers in classrooms across grade levels to tailor PocketLab tothe needs of a particular student or project. They hope individual studentswill also be able to use the sensor on their own, making science fairs androbotics competitions less cost-prohibitive.

Future versions of PocketLab willalso focus on interacting with a broader community through a cloud interface. Thiswould enable students to better comprehend, analyze, and compare their data,and educators to share and download lesson plans. Roozebloom envisions thatstudents measuring temperature and humidity in a classroom in California wouldbe able to see differences in data from similar experiments across the world,and “start to learn about concepts like local climate, developing globalawareness.”

Roozebloom also hopes that the opportunity to learn about deviation anderror firsthand would help “students start to learn about these real conceptsthat plague science understanding when trying to measure something as big asglobal warming or global climate change.” As he sees it, PocketLab can show theinherent uncertainty in scientific experiments. “We can illustrate that noisein the data on a very micro scale with our sensor, and then on a macro scale,with network access to others’ data,” said Roozebloom.

To Gallagher, who teaches atReading Memorial High School in Massachusetts, PocketLab offers an opportunityfor students to not only grasp global changes, but also understand the scienceat work in their daily lives. She envisions students bringing the PocketLab outof the classroom, using it to “learn the physics of what they do all the time,”by placing the sensor inside a baseball, on a sled, or strapping it to an armduring a dance routine. Roozebloom agrees, explaining, “one of the big goals isto turn everyday experiences into hands-on experiments.” So pull out your Nerfball, or your sled: PocketLab is coming your way.

Community

PocketLab Wins Yale Education Business Plan Competition

By Charley Locke     May 7, 2014

PocketLab Wins Yale Education Business Plan Competition

If Galileo had access to PocketLab, he could have saved someexplanation at the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Luckily, next time youwant to share your proof that time of descent is independent from mass, ormeasure the forces exerted on a Nerf ball during free fall, there’s a new toolavailable, funded by the Yale Education Business Plan Competition.

ThePocketLab sensor, which won the eighth annual conference’s Education BusinessPlan Competition on April 4, measures force, acceleration, velocity, position,tilt, barometric pressure, altitude, magnetic field, humidity, and temperature.By attaching it to objects, students will be able to measure data from scienceexperiments and transmit their findings to a PocketLab cloud server, enablingclassrooms around the world to compare results. “Instead of just showing peoplewhat falls faster, a brick or a feather, you can actually just throw thePocketLab out the window, and it will record measurements that you can use tounderstand what’s going on,” said Aaron Feuer, a judge on the panel at Yale.

Proposalsfrom PocketLab, Million Dollar Scholar, and HomeRoom, selected as the top threeapplications by the Yale Education Leadership Conference team, were consideredin the Business Plan Competition. The competition supports education reformthrough entrepreneurship by awarding up to $10,000 for seed proposals. Thisyear, it was moderated by EdSurge’s own Tyler McNally, and judged by AaronFeuer, CEO of Panorama, Sarah Ham, an associate at DBL Investors, BenWallerstein, Co-Founder of Whiteboard Advisors, and Kerry Gallagher, a socialstudies teacher at Reading Public Schools.

Clifton Roozeboom, Adrian Albert,and Michael Ramos-Lynch came up with PocketLab in a management science graduateschool course at Stanford, where the three founders respectively studymechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and law and management science.  Ramos-Lynch, who taught high school studentsin Texas through Teach For America, explained the dynamics of their team. “Clifis the hardware guy, Adrian is the software guy, and I’m the education guy,” hesaid. Speaking from his experience as a teacher, Ramos-Lynch sees PocketLab asaddressing “the achievement gap related to STEM fields” by making scientificconcepts more personally relevant to students.

Several other sensors already onthe market also aim to do so through data collection, analysis, and sharing. NationalInstruments LabVIEW and the Arduino microcontroller platform offer a similarfunctionality and network as PocketLab, but are designed for engineers andscientists, rather than students with less expertise. Many widely used interactivelearning tools, like Leap Frog, do not offer a social network, as PocketLabhopes to provide through their cloud interface. The Vernier LabQuest2 offersthe same tools for collecting and sharing sensor data as PocketLab, but costssubstantially more, at $329 per device.

At a cost of $50 for the hardware and$10 annually for the cloud software, PocketLab aims to make these opportunitiesaccessible to students of all economic backgrounds. “Using off-the-shelfcomponents, and components that go into commercial electronics, we can reallydrive down that price,” Roozebloom explained. Ramos-Lynch added that theirsupplies would also make PocketLab more durable, especially important inschools with less resources to replace tools. “When you’ve got a high schoolclassroom of 20-40 students, PocketLab is a lot easier to safeguard than theother competitors, which are generally flimsier and way more expensive,” heexplained.

With the funding from the EducationBusiness Plan Competition, PocketLab’s founders have made twenty prototypes,and will be testing them within Palo Alto classrooms in the next few weeks.“Our first prototype works best for a high school level understanding ofphysics, technology, or engineering,” Ramos-Lynch said. For initial livetesting, they’re developing lesson plans to roll out with the product. Thesesample cases--“how a ball bounces, or what motion you see if you hang a weightfrom a spring, or if you take a car and crash it into a wall, what forces wouldbe involved in that impact,” Ramos-Lynch continued--aim to help teachersintegrate PocketLab into high school science curricula.

In future products,they plan to broaden PocketLab’s usability to classrooms from kindergartenthrough college, and open up the platform to development by other programmers, whichwould enable teachers in classrooms across grade levels to tailor PocketLab tothe needs of a particular student or project. They hope individual studentswill also be able to use the sensor on their own, making science fairs androbotics competitions less cost-prohibitive.

Future versions of PocketLab willalso focus on interacting with a broader community through a cloud interface. Thiswould enable students to better comprehend, analyze, and compare their data,and educators to share and download lesson plans. Roozebloom envisions thatstudents measuring temperature and humidity in a classroom in California wouldbe able to see differences in data from similar experiments across the world,and “start to learn about concepts like local climate, developing globalawareness.”

Roozebloom also hopes that the opportunity to learn about deviation anderror firsthand would help “students start to learn about these real conceptsthat plague science understanding when trying to measure something as big asglobal warming or global climate change.” As he sees it, PocketLab can show theinherent uncertainty in scientific experiments. “We can illustrate that noisein the data on a very micro scale with our sensor, and then on a macro scale,with network access to others’ data,” said Roozebloom.

To Gallagher, who teaches atReading Memorial High School in Massachusetts, PocketLab offers an opportunityfor students to not only grasp global changes, but also understand the scienceat work in their daily lives. She envisions students bringing the PocketLab outof the classroom, using it to “learn the physics of what they do all the time,”by placing the sensor inside a baseball, on a sled, or strapping it to an armduring a dance routine. Roozebloom agrees, explaining, “one of the big goals isto turn everyday experiences into hands-on experiments.” So pull out your Nerfball, or your sled: PocketLab is coming your way.

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