Community Engagement Project by Maker Girl

One of the greatest privileges of being a science stream student is having the opportunity to explore the wonders of technology, no matter how old they are. Age is just a number – a pre-pubescent can learn the basics of programming, and an adolescent can engage simple hands-on electronics project. As long as you are interested, nothing can stop you from obtaining the knowledge you seek.

An Arduino is a microcontroller kit that allows one to create an interactive digital device that can do whatever they want. The only limit is their imagination. Because of its simplicity and affordable price, young students who are interested in robotics can always start out by learning Arduino.

However, there are those fascinated by the knowledge of robotics and electronic yet unable to learn because Arduino kits are not easily available e and is not a requirement for their examinations. Robotics and electronics skills are barely taught in schools unless a robotic club is present, where sometimes their resources are incredibly limited. Therefore, IEEE USM Student Branch WIE Affinity Group carried out a community engagement project in SMK Methodist (ACS) Parit Buntar to expose the secondary students to the basics of Arduino and how to create their very first electronics project.

Facilitators are teaching the students the basics of handling electronics components and the Arduino microcontroller

The four-hour long project was chaired by Yow Sue Chin and advised by AP Dr Rosmiwati Mohd Mokhtar, who is currently a senior lecturer in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in USM. Not only were the participants exposed to the basics of handling electronics components and the Arduino microcontroller, they were also given the chance to learn Arduino’s coding – a skill that can rarely be taught in schools. Experience is the best teacher, which is why every student was given a chance to approach the project themselves throughout the workshop.

Held on the 25th December 2017, the project began with a briefing followed by the Basic Arduino Workshop led by the members of IEEE USM Student Branch WIE Affinity Group, which taught the participants the fundamentals of Arduino and its coding. The students showed a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity throughout the workshop, which eased the tension of the teaching and learning process.

The workshop lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes and was proceeded with the Water Level Indicator Workshop. Equipped with their newfound knowledge, the participants were tasked to create a device using the Arduino kit to fulfil the objectives given. This was a very exciting moment, as the students were able to experience how engineers handle tasks – to find the most effective solution to the problems faced. The students were guided throughout the workshop, but they were also given the chance to express themselves as they suggested ways to achieve the objective of the project. It was rewarding to see the fascination and determination in the students’ eyes as they went through the rest of the programme. The workshop continued until 6pm, with a short break in between for the students to refresh themselves.

Students are discussing and finding information to complete the project.

Through this workshop, not only the students were able to broaden their knowledge, but also develop their communication skills and understand the importance of teamwork. One of the aims of this project is to develop a student’s fascination towards science and technology, which the project has achieved. Also, we were glad to succeed in boosting the participants’ confidence and soft skills. The students were not the only ones who had learnt something from this project, as the committee of the project also realized the roles they played in inspiring more teenagers to contribute to science and technology, which will indirectly benefit the community and the nation.

Overall, this voluntary programme was a huge success, with the participants and the committee learning something more than just technical skills and basic robotics knowledge. However, there are still room for improvement, as the committee for the project suggested they should plan the contents of the workshop much earlier, just so the participants could explore deeper into the knowledge delivered.

In IEEE, we aspire to expose more youngsters to technical skills and knowledge that are not taught in schools, also inspire students to understand their roles in leading the community to a brighter future through science and technology.

Group photo of facilitators, teacher in charged and students