Next-generation enclosures for use in public spaces

We’re expanding the provision of remote laboratory experiments on the city-centre campus at the University of Edinburgh. Space is quite tight, and we want to support a 10x increase in experiential learning hours for students. This is possible without building new buildings only because remote laboratories are 100x more efficient in their usage of space compared to traditional laboratories [stack 4-5x higher, open 3x longer, use >7x less space because there is no desk, chair or standing room required]. This is an attractive proposition about which we’ve previously published.

We want to do even better than that, and use otherwise unused space to host the experiments. That way, we avoid having to reduce space available for other teaching, and research activities. Public spaces such as foyers must be safe to exit during a fire, so we switched over to using metal boxes. The fronts are fire-rated PETG, and the boxes are sealed to keep in any fumes that would be released if there was a short circuit (we don’t expect any).

Our first installation in wooden boxes above provided over 2,500 hours of assessed coursework to 250 students in 2021, which we reported here. We’re delighted that the upgraded motors in this version of the experiment have worked even better, and that the containers have been a talking point for people passing by the foyer that they live in.

Andrew Brown designed this new container, and construction has been undertaken with his team including Calum Melrose. We’ve had a bunch of input from other team members as well (long list – you have our thanks even if not mentioned here!), such as Doug Halley keeping us on track with lighting and power, and we’re grateful to our fire, estates, and buildings teams for their advice and support. Over Summer 2022, Jonny Welsh and Zsolt Csonka – our interns – are producing around 30 more containers together with Andrew, Calum, using new smart power boards designed by Imogen Heard. We’re upgrading our wooden box internals too – with interns Bhavith Manapoty and Eralp Calhan. We’re pretty excited about what the new boxes will do – the reveal will come later on in the year.

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