Desolation STEM Review


Usually, I am not a huge fan of “prescribed labs”, but I must say I found the gold mine of prescribed labs. Desolation STEM Modules from Cross Cutting Concepts has made several modules that provide students with the opportunity to solve a real-world problem then create a model using their solutions. The modules come with everything you need to carry out all tasks with the exception of basic lab supplies like beakers, multi-meters, and graduated cylinders. Best part- THEY WORK!

The first module I completed is Total Redox™ Fuel Cells. As described on Desolation STEM’s website, the goal of this module is:

“Your students will help design and construct a makeshift fuel cell to get the stranded HAWC astronauts back to the outpost. Power output from the substitute fuel cell will be severely limited, so the optimum route home must also be found.”

Students will construct the battery using given supplies and will use software to model the route home. My husband happens to be a battery engineer, so I decided to make him my lab partner for this module. He agrees that overall the module is an excellent representation of a problem students could face in a future engineer career.He was especially impressed that the battery we built reached 1.37 volts, near maximum voltage potential of 1.44 volts.

How the module is set up:

1. NGSS and Common Core Math Standards: especially useful during evaluations or for test prep.

2. Teaching Time Line: provides options depending on how much class time you have.

3. Teacher Notes: Literally includes everything you need to do and everything you need to instruct your students to do. Numbered instructions with a loose script are clear and thorough.

4. Story: A story from the perspective of a field-based engineer is presented to the students. The real-world problem is presented through the story.

5. Background Information: History, diagrams, explanations, and example problems are all provided.

6. Pre-Lab Questions: Aligned with the background information.

7. Lab Procedure: Challenging and extensions are presented. Explanations are provided where needed. Definitely need a group of students to work on this. Everyone may approach the main challenge differently, so inquiry is present. If you are wanting a procedure that challenges to build something as well as model, these modules are for you. EXCELLENT!

8. Post Lab Questions: Challenging questions I would recommend solving in groups.

9. Glossary of Terms.

These modules would fit nicely in a math class, STEM class, physics class, or MakerSpace. Students are not only building but are also modeling and solving math problems. You could complete the module independently, but the problems are design to be solved in teams.

We did have to deviate from the procedure slightly to for the electrons to flow into the zinc chamber by unscrewing the top of the small tube. This allowed air to escape the “air piston” that was created during the battery build which was pushing electrons down. It was an easy, 2-second fix. Lastly, be sure you properly label everything you use that is not provided in the module.

Overall, I think students will walk away from this module feeling a sense of pride for accomplishing a task that solves a problem with a team. I highly recommend these modules, as they are thorough. It’s as if a field-based professional and a teacher designed these together to meet the needs of industry and modern students. I cannot wait to try out the next one!

  • Xandy