AUSTIN (KXAN) — In full ’90s nostalgic fashion, the ‘Mobile eXploration Lab’ (MXLab) is bringing the Magic School Bus to life for some Central Texas students. The MXLab is a mobile classroom designed to introduce students to careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Inside are activities that promote critical thinking, scientific processes and hands-on learning for all grade levels.
The program is run by Learning Undefeated, a non-profit organization driven to create race and gender equity in STEM fields. The mobile project started in Maryland but has since expanded to Texas and Louisiana. “One of the main goals is to really reach those communities that are under-resourced,” says Desurae Matthews with Learning Undefeated.
The MXLab comes at no cost to schools and is funded by the Texas Education Agency. The goal of the program is to visit at least one school in each of the state’s school districts. Visits are based on needs and resources. This week, the MXLab is out front of Mendez Middle School in southeast Austin where students are being tasked with an “engineering design challenge.” The assignment? Make a mock-up prosthetic using only the available materials like glue, straws, cardboard and string. Cristian Arias, an eighth-grader at Mendez, took part in his classes’ planning process. “I thought it was like a gorilla hand,” he said, “because it’s more like human.” Activities are decided by teachers ahead of the visit.
Whether the students complete the task or not, the goal remains the same — give students the opportunity to see themselves in the role, no matter their background or experience. “When you break things down, it kind of the light bulb goes off what seemed like a nightmare. It’s just like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’” Matthews said.
Original air date: March 31, 2022