This Silicon Valley-backed app is bringing science to everyone  | CNBC Make It
Articles Blog

This Silicon Valley-backed app is bringing science to everyone | CNBC Make It

With very basic materials you
can actually run experiments. Komal Dadlani is the 30-year-old
co-founder and CEO of Lab4U, a start-up that’s trying to come up with
a new formula for teaching science. We see that there’s a problem in
science education around the world, especially in Latin America and many other emerging
markets where schools don’t have lab equipment. So what we do is we leverage something that is very
accessible today, which is smartphones and tablets. There are more than five billion
smartphones in the world today and they’re packed full of
sensors and processing power. Komal says that makes them the perfect home
for science experiments anytime, anywhere. Smartphones are
accessible to everyone. These are springs,
easily accessible, masking tape, a toy car. These are easy to use,
easy to access materials. So here we are selecting
our samples. Komal showed us how she turned her
phone’s camera into a colorimeter, analyzing the intensity of
color samples in beakers. By taking just a picture
of that with your phone, it plots it instantly on a graph and then
you can sort of see if for yourself. A traditional colorimeter, for example, can
cost between $300 and $500 dollars. A smartphone, well, it’s already
in many students’ pockets. Komal co-founded the company at the age of 24
after getting her masters in biochemistry in Chile, where she would often leave
class feeling frustrated. My classes were very theoretical, and they
were not as engaging as I would like them to be. And then I would visit schools in
Chile and they did not have labs. And that frustration led me to
say, “This has to change.” But then how do you make
it actually happen? So, there were many tipping
points because it’s not easy. We were in a school back in the
early days when we started Lab4U. Our design was
not that good. And there was a student that actually threw the phone
to my face and said, “I’m not going to do this.” So Lab4U partnered with
social game developer Zynga, which helped make the apps more
like, you guessed it, a game. But it took us at least
five years to get there. You have to raise funding. You have to
test. You have to be okay with failure. Not everything is going to
be perfect in the beginning. Lab4U is hoping to follow in the footsteps of other
successful learning apps like Duolingo and Udemy. And it’s not a bad
sector to be in. The mobile learning market is
expected to reach $70 billion by 2024. But Komal’s goals go beyond
just making money. She hopes to spark kids’ interest
in science in Latin America, where the number of students receiving degrees in
STEM; science, technology, engineering and math, lags behind other regions in
the world like the EU and the U.S. Globally there’s also a gap in the number of women
pursuing careers in STEM compared to men. Under 30% of researchers worldwide are women, a
problem Komal calls the “STEM-leaking pipeline.” The truth is that we are as good as boys when it
comes to science and mathematics and engineering. Lab4U is now used by over 100,000 students
and 20,000 teachers in 20 countries. Pricing starts at $15 per
semester per student. Komal’s best lesson in how
to keep students engaged? Trying to make science fun. You never said, “Page 245 of that
textbook that changed my life.” It’s normally the experience, the teacher that
changes your perception and the way you think. That’s why for us the
experience is so important.

21 thoughts on “This Silicon Valley-backed app is bringing science to everyone | CNBC Make It

  1. When we buy cheap CHINESE products, Some of the money goes to the COMMUNIST PARTY of CHINA as Customs and Taxes which they use to strengthen their military and threat DEMOCRACY and HUMAN RIGHTS, So if we start to stop buying Chinese good now, CHINA'S global influences and threat weakens.

  2. Are smartphones that common among poor people? Or, is this just a technology that can only benefit students who don't need it, such as middle or upper-class students?

  3. Not to knock her hustle but I've an app that detects color I downloaded from Play store over a year ago. So what's the thing she invented?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top