Creative sparks fly in hands-on Lopes Live Labs
Editor’s note: Reprinted from the August 2021 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
Mike Kilen, Ashlee Larrison, Lana Sweeten-Shults and Rick Vacek contributed to this report
Photos by Ralph Freso
Deep in the bowels of the Biomedical Device Design Prototyping Lab, a space where the occasional robot has been known to roam, Brandon Hanes is working on some heady stuff.
He’s part of a team trying to create a continuous insulin sensor to help diabetics.
“The idea is we’re going to have an implantable device that will be able to take a measurement on demand,” said Hanes, a senior biomedical engineering student at Grand Canyon University and a researcher working in one of the many Lopes Live Labs on campus.
“You understand how someone will have peaks and troughs throughout the day? We’re trying to be able to read those peaks and troughs. The next step would be reducing those as far as we can.”
And wouldn’t that be cool?
It is just one of the many real-world, hands on projects brewing in the Lopes Live Labs, aka L3. Instead of sitting passively and listening to a lecture, students are building race cars and water jets, cobbling together robots and creating virtual reality sports museums.
Beyond those traditional STEM-related laboratory environments, students also get practical hands-on experiences running GCU Hotel, providing input for a student-run coffee company, putting together advertising campaigns and assisting in the operation of a merchandise company.
Instead of reading about what they could be doing, they’re doing.
What are Lopes Live Labs? Dr. Randy Gibb, Dean of the Colangelo College of Business, explains the philosophy:
“The concept is simple: Where are students doing applied, hands on, experiential learning outside the classroom? Where is the classroom brought to life and students are getting experiences that are very unique and really differentiate GCU?”
That hands-on, experiential learning takes place in everything from the Cadaver Dissection Lab to the Lopes Orthopedic Clinic, from the Black Box Theatre to the GCU Recording Lab, from GCU Hotel and Canyon 49 Grill to the Canyon Ventures business incubator, and beyond.
“The academic experience at GCU does not simply exist in a classroom,” GCU Provost Dr. Hank Radda said. “At GCU, the classroom comes to life through Lopes Live Labs. These educational spaces on campus provide access and opportunity for unique applied-learning laboratories.
“Students who graduate from GCU are not just ‘college-level entry ready.’ They graduate with experience and are ready for industry because they have launched their career while still in college.”
And every day at GCU, they can have a hand in the collaboration and innovation that the Lopes Live Labs offer. Ready for a tour of the L3 spirit? Below is more about what students are doing in these transformational destinations spread all over campus. Several excerpts have been expanded beyond what appeared in GCU Magazine:
Students dissect science in high-tech heaven
It all started with the cadaver labs, the rock-star science lab in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, where pre-health students were so excited to get hands-on experience on the campus’ cadavers. CSET Dean Dr. Mark Wooden said, “We thought, ‘What could we do for kids outside of the classroom setting that gives them experiences?'” What they did was incorporate a slew of hands-on labs into the college, everything from the engineering shops to the Cyber Center of Excellence to the Exercise Science Labs and Nutrition Lab, to name a few. “Really, these Lopes Live Labs are about providing kids opportunities to practice and explore their own interests outside of the classroom that is tied to what they’re studying,” said Wooden. Story
Canyon Ventures helps Lux Longboards keep rolling
One of the most unusual examples of a Lopes Live Lab is Canyon Ventures, the business incubator where students can gain valuable experience by working for startups. Or they can do what Weston Smith did — start their own business and become a Canyon Ventures tenant. Lux Longboards is a model for what Lopes Live Labs are all about: He has collaborated with people from all across the University. “Wes has engaged the spectrum of GCU,” said Robert Vera, Director of Canyon Ventures. Story
Students treat students in bustling Orthopedic Clinic
If a student takes a tumble on a skateboard or turns an ankle in intramurals, they might just find themselves at the Lopes Orthopedic Clinic on the first floor of Chaparral Hall. The 2-year-old clinic is quickly becoming the go-to place for treatment when it comes to musculoskeletal injuries. It’s also where athletic training students can get hands-on experience. The unique Lopes Live Lab offers students an “opportunity, really, like none other,” said Michael McKenney, Assistant Professor and Clinical Education Coordinator of the Athletic Training program. Story
New library, classroom set to create ‘teacher leaders’
The Lopes for Literacy Multicultural Library and Lab Classroom are two new College of Education Lopes Live Labs that will help teacher candidates bring their hands-on learning to future classrooms. The library is filled with children’s books that tell stories of justice, race relations, disabilities and other differences, while the Lab Classroom includes objects that help students get kinesthetically involved in learning. COE Dean Dr. Meredith Critchfield put it this way: “This isn’t sit and get. It’s learn and do.” Story
Lopes Live Labs offer hospitality, finance training
Lopes Live Labs serve a variety of student needs, particularly in the Colangelo College of Business. Future certified financial planners will receive first-rate training in the new Charles Schwab Foundation Finance Center, and GCU Hotel and Canyon 49 Grill serve as a classroom for the hospitality program. “We very intentionally bought the hotel, fixed it up and built a restaurant to give students an applied learning lab,” said the CCOB dean, Dr. Randy Gibb. Story