Miri youths demonstrate creativity and problem-solving skills at innovation challenge boot camp

Miri – 10 April 2019 – A two-day ‘Young Innovators Challenge’ Boot Camp for the Northern Zone of Sarawak was held at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) recently to instil interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) among secondary school students and also prepare them for competition in the upcoming STEM Challenge Tech Track of the ‘Young Innovators Challenge’ in Miri this August.

The boot camp, facilitated by student mentors from the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Student Branch of Curtin Malaysia, was attended by 300 students and 25 teachers from 25 secondary schools in Miri.

The ‘Young Innovators Challenge’ is a Ministry of Education endorsed annual competition managed by Chumbaka in collaboration with private and public universities nationwide to develop young digital inventors and showcase their creativity, innovativeness and problem-solving skills through digital embedded systems.

In Sarawak, the competition is held in conjunction with the STEM Playground, an annual interactive exhibition to cultivate interest in STEM amongst young people in the state. The event, which is held consecutively in Kuching, Sibu and Miri, is spearheaded by Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Bumiputera Sarawak (TEGAS) with the support of tertiary institutions, the Sarawak Multimedia Authority, Sarawak Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research and All Aboard Young Leaders Centre.

Participants in the ‘Young Innovators Challenge’ are required to identify real-life problems, design solutions and deliver their ideas via prototype construction using Arduino kits.

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software 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.

During the boot camp, the participants were introduced to Arduino and learned how to use it as an embedded system to solve problems according to given themes: Food and Agriculture, Automotive/Mobility, Healthcare, Home and Shelter, Heavy Equipment and Machinery and Retailing.

They learned to apply the ‘design thinking’ methodology, a method that emphasises five key elements – Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Testing – to ensure solutions address the problems from the user’s perspective and not the innovator’s.

Working in teams, they interviewed a food seller, bus driver, librarian, security guards and students at Curtin Malaysia to find out what challenges they encounter on a daily basis. On the following day, the participants had to design and build prototypes using Arduino and their newly-acquired technical and thinking skills to help solve those challenges. They then had to pitch their designs to their peers who voted for the most innovative solutions.

Associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and advisor to the IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch, Dr. Garenth Lim, said about 100 teams from the 25 schools will be showcasing their prototypes at the STEM Challenge Tech Track on 3 and 4 August.

He said that the Curtin mentors have been adequately trained to conduct such workshops for students and are very excited about working with the school teams.

Meanwhile, vice president of the IEEE Curtin Malaysia Student Branch, Alvin Lau Siew Nam, commented that he found mentoring secondary school students a lot of fun as it is also a learning process for the mentors and it is satisfying to see the students take to programming so enthusiastically.


Students pitching their ideas during the Young Innovators Challenge’ Boot Camp at Curtin Malaysia.

Group photo of participants and their Curtin mentors during the boot camp.