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IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch promotes STEM and programming to rural students

Miri – 27 May 2019 – The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Student Branch of Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) recently conducted a 2-day ‘Science on Wheels’ programming bootcamp for 30 students of SMK Telang Usan at the Pusat Kegiatan Guru (PKG) in Marudi.

Nine student mentors of the IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch, led by lead mentor Sia Chun Wan, facilitated the bootcamp. They were accompanied by electrical and computer engineering associate professor and IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch advisor Dr. Garenth Lim King Hann.

To kick off the activities on the first day, the students attended a briefing on participation in the Young Innovators Challenge and STEM Playground held in Sarawak, and were given an introduction to programming using Arduino kits.

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software commonly used to teach students to create interactive projects or environments. It uses single-board microcontrollers and microcontroller kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control physically and digitally.

The students then attended a ‘Design Thinking’ session highlighting the stages of design thinking - ‘Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Testing’. To reinforce the concepts, the students formed teams and participated in a role-playing game where they interviewed Curtin mentors playing the roles of food seller, bus driver, laboratory instructor, book seller, dentist and security guard to identify critical problems faced in each role and propose solutions to their problems.

This was followed through on the second day when the teams were tasked with building simple prototypes with their kits, and applying the knowledge of Arduino acquired the day before, to try and solve the problems faced by each of the six roles.

Once they had completed their prototypes, they had to conduct a simple testing process, followed by 5-minute sessions in which they had to pitch the merits of their projects. Prizes were presented to the top three teams.

According to Dr. Lim, ‘Science on Wheels’ is an annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach programme organised by the IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch to promote STEM to students in rural schools since 2013.

“Besides promoting STEM to rural students who would otherwise have very limited exposure to such subjects, particularly through the use of programming and Arduino kits, it is an effective platform for our Curtin students to develop mentoring and leadership skills.

“It also allows them to play an active role in engaging and changing lives in our rural communities. For those with a strictly urban or city upbringing, or those from other countries, it can be quite an eye-opener,” said Dr. Lim.

Third-year electrical power engineering student and IEEE Malaysia Student Branch head of community outreach Yong Siew Chen said she enjoyed interacting with the students and seeing them learn during the bootcamp. As a mentor, she drew much inspiration from them and looks forward to bringing the ‘Science on Wheels’ programme to more rural students.

For more information on Curtin Malaysia, visit its website (www.curtin.edu.my), its Facebook page (CurtinMalaysia), Twitter profile (curtinmalaysia), Instagram (curtinmalaysia) or YouTube channel (Curtin Malaysia).


IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch mentors with students and teachers of SMK Telang Usan.


Curtin mentors guiding students as they build their prototypes.


Students pitching the merits of their project.