What is STEMLab?

Every great innovation starts with a seemingly unattainable idea and an organization that’s willing to take a chance.  At Fairchild, we have become known for pushing the boundaries and successfully developing innovative conservation and education programs. 

Over the past year, Fairchild, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and The University of Miami School of Architecture, Design Build Program, has been working to transform an ADA-accessible, decommissioned yellow school bus into a state-of-the-art botanical propagation lab.  STEMLab is a state-of-the-art mobile micropropgration laboratory was designed to provide middle school students with an opportunity to actively participate in the Million Orchid Project by bringing the laboratory to their school. 

Outfitted with specialized laboratory equipment (including two laminar flow hoods, an autoclave, reverse osmosis water, photo-voltaic power, a generator, air conditioning, refrigeration, laboratory plumbing, electricity and safety equipment), this lab is nearly ready to hit the street.  Making its debut at Fairchild 14th Annual Orchid Festival in March, visitors got the opportunity to tour the facility and consider the future of plant science and conservation as explained by our staff and the new botany experts, the students from our BioTech High School.

Now, this fully functioning botany lab will be traveling to middle schools, providing them with the opportunity to actively participate in meaningful STEM research with local conservation implications, through Fairchild’s Million Orchid Project. Leveraging our highly successful education program, The Fairchild Challenge, it is our goal to make this specialized lab equipment available to middle schools in the school district, allowing us to teach and reinforce concepts in biology, chemistry and environmental science. At the same time, the laboratory will support the reintroduction of endangered orchid species throughout our region.  

This project will provide an exciting and innovative twist to a conventional citizen science project by engaging students in all aspects of the research. Students will plant and transplant orchid seeds in sterile conditions aboard the STEMLab, nurture orchid seedlings in mini botany labs housed in their classroom and collect and analyze the data. As the orchids grow, students will plant them in trees around their schools, where growth and ecological interactions can be monitored

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hat makes this program unique is the entire STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning experience, including the work that would typically occur in university level scientific laboratories, takes place entirely within school grounds, using existing infrastructure and outdoor landscapes, classroom equipment provided by Fairchild, and STEMLab. Additionally, the project is tailored for our community and fully integrated with an established local conservation effort (The Million Orchid Project) that has wide-reaching local and national implications and a well-established education program (The Fairchild Challenge). Through STEMLab, students and teachers will collect, aggregate, and analyze significant publishable scientific data; and they students will be given the opportunity to devise their own research questions and test hypotheses that will advance the program in unexpected directions thus putting local conservation and the future of our community, directly in the hands of school children. 

YouTube Video

Vine Cutting Ceremony for STEMLab, 2016