Professor Tim Drysdale scoops award for Remote Labs in Helsinki

Student interacting with remote lab experiments in stacked containers
Remote Labs installed in the Nucleus building at the College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh

An innovative remote lab experiment developed by a School researcher has scooped an international award.

Professor Tim Drysdale, the School’s Chair of Technology Enhanced Science Education, picked up a Global Online Labs Consortium (GOLC) Award for Remotely Controlled Experiments, for the Remote Labs system that he and a team of School researchers and technicians developed to teach students practical lab skills online.

The GOLC Awards are designed to uncover “stellar examples of online laboratories in educational settings from all STEM fields” and were presented at the International Conference on Smart Technologies & Education (STE) in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday 6 March 2024. 

GOLC is part of the International Association of Online Engineering (IAOE), a non-profit organization which encourages the wider development, distribution and application of online engineering (OE) technologies and their influence in society.

The Remote Labs system developed by Professor Drysdale and his team allows students to access and operate practical lab experiments remotely, learning hands-on engineering skills through digital methods.

Cameras mounted inside the lab units allow students and educators to view the experiments through a web browser in real time alongside the data being collected. Created as open source, Remote Labs are designed to be shared beyond the University of Edinburgh and can be used at any time of day and from any location.

The labs are housed in stackable shipping containers, carrying a much smaller footprint than traditional in-person lab teaching – saving around 150 square meters of teaching lab space for every square metre of space they occupy.

Placed at various locations around School of Engineering buildings, the lab displays help create a science museum feel on campus and allow visitors, staff and students to see experiments being operated remotely.

Reacting to the award, Professor Drysdale said:

"GOLC has been at the forefront of coordinating international collaboration on educational online laboratories since 2010, so to be recognised by them is an achievement that the team and I are very proud of."

To date, the team have used over 100 Remote Labs experiments to deliver and assess undergraduate engineering education across electrical, civil and mechanical engineering disciplines.

The Labs have also been used in the School’s outreach activities to inspire secondary school pupils about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

This latest success builds on the Remote Labs team’s previous awards, including the ALT Award for Digital Transformation in partnership with Jisc, awarded in autumn 2023.

Professor Tim Drysdale (right) receiving the GOLC Award for Remote Labs from Dr Dominik May, Chair of GOLC

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