While online courses are on the rise, lab elements or lab courses are a bit harder to manage online. This short piece from The Scientist describes how online science lab packs have made that a little easier for students taking online science courses. Lab kits have been available since at least 2005, and my quick perusal of a couple of providers indicates one can be purchased for relatively small (but non-trivial) amount of money. Some even allow for customization.
My first thought, beyond marveling at what is essentially a souped-up chemistry (or other subject) set for adults, is how it could be used for citizen research. Now, I’m not fully plugged into citizen science like SciStarter, so there may be similar kits available for community-based research (monitoring local environmental quality, public health surveys, etc.), or developed by companies or labs seeking to gather a lot of data via volunteer assistance. Unfortunately, the relatively small cost for a custom kit (probably on the order of $300-$400, based on the higher end pre-packaged kits available) may make it prohibitive for some of the most needed projects.
Keeping in mind that I may be very late to this party, I’d love to know what other kinds of portable lab kits are available and how they might be usable in citizen science projects. I’ll certainly keep an eye out.