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Primary school teachers master programming and electronic prototyping at Curtin Malaysia

Miri – 9 April 2019 – 63 teachers from 30 primary schools around Miri availed themselves to Arduino, an open-source electronics prototyping platform to build digital devices and interactive objects, and Scratch, a programming software, during the second annual ‘Junior Innovate Boot Camp’ held at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) recently.

The train-the-trainer boot camp was organised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Curtin Malaysia Student Branch in collaboration with All Aboard Young Leaders Centre (AAYLC) – Chumbaka Miri, with support from the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA), Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Bumiputera Sarawak (TEGAS) and the Sarawak Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research (METSR).

Advisor to the IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch, Dr. Garenth Lim King Hann, said the purpose of the two-day boot camp was to train the teachers in the use of open-source hardware and software and how to impart their newly-acquired knowledge and skills to their students.

He said such technological tools have been proven very effective in the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related subjects and in making classroom learning more innovative, interactive and fun.

The boot camp was also to familiarise the teachers with the rules for ‘Junior Innovate’, a national STEM-based competition designed to inspire a digital creator mind set and life skills amongst primary school students in preparation for jobs of the future.

In the competition, eligible students aged 9 to 12 years are trained to realise their ideas and learning by building embedded systems using Arduino and Scratch. Essentially, they have to ‘hack’ their toys using the open-source hardware and software, and demonstrate their projects through story-telling.

Part of the boot camp at Curtin Malaysia involved the teachers designing creative and innovative games using the Arduino and Scratch tools. They were then required to present their prototypes through story-telling where they had to articulate clearly what they had learned and how every member of their teams played a part in their projects.

Dr. Lim said that school children should be taught programming at an early stage as programming is now a required basic skill for the 21st Century.

“In doing so, children will be empowered to actively engage in the field of electronics and computer science at a young age and gain a competitive edge in a digital future,” he remarked.

He added that such technological knowledge and skills, as well as life skills like creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, are aligned to current trends in Industry 4.0 such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, automation and cyber security. As a result, the children develop a keen awareness of the technological requirements of tomorrow. He said this is also the reasoning behind ‘Junior Innovate’.

Meanwhile, President of the IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Chapter, Tay Chuan Zhi, said that the student chapter’s involvement in ‘Junior Innovate’ encourages volunteerism and the enhancement of technical knowledge amongst its members as they act as tech mentors to the participating teams.

“We are playing our part in empowering the community to be innovative digital makers, and not mere consumers, true to IEEE’s vision of Advancing Technology for Humanity,” he said.

The IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch was established in 2008 and currently has about 100 members. For more information on the student branch, e-mail ieee.curtinsarawak@gmail.com, visit https://ewh.ieee.org/sb/malaysia/curtinsarawak/ or visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/IEEE.CurtinMalaysia.

Also present at the boot camp were AAYLC - Chumbaka Miri representatives Haslina Malik and Zairustina Putit.

AAYLC is a homegrown Sarawakian social enterprise dedicated to empowering youths and children to discover themselves and grow into confident individuals, innovative thinkers and problem solvers with a heart for the community. It partners with Chumbaka, a Malaysian organisation that specialises in developing children’s life skills through technology, to reach out to youth and children in Miri and equip them with technical and programming knowledge to grow their life skills.

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).


Group photo of participants, facilitators and Curtin tech mentors during the boot camp.


School teachers learning to code their Arduino hardware.