Back to school: Googling, coding and Lego prototypes – this is what science class looks like today

APPLIED LEARNING PROGRAM

After the only period of science lessons, I also participated in the applied learning program at Jurongville Secondary with 2 Discipline.

At the start of the course, it became clear that the students had been working on their projects for a few weeks. Most of the students – in groups of 4 – had prototypes made from Lego and other materials that moved, beeped or flashed.

In this school’s applied learning program, the emphasis is on coding and electronics. Students are tasked with choosing a real-world problem and then prototype a solution to the problem using a Microbit, which is a programmable mini-computer. They must also present their project at the end of the semester.

All regular MOE secondary schools offer their own applied learning curriculum, and just over half of them offer one in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Mdm Seah explained. Applied learning programs are available to all junior high students, and interested students can continue to take it as an option in senior high school.

“It is a non-examination subject. It’s a lot of learning by application, getting them to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in different places, and specifically relating it to electronics,” said class teacher Mr. Lim Sien Long.

“Specifically, what they learn is actually a mix of programming, electrical circuitry, and design, particularly the process of design thinking. So, in addition to being hands-on, students also learn to think from logical and systematic way.At the same time, they can also demonstrate their creativity.

This was all very new to me, there was no coding at all when I was in school. The closest comparison I could think of was the ICT lessons we had. My school was lucky enough to be among the first to pilot tablets in 2009, and I’ll admit that I spent most of my time in those lessons figuring out how to play online games with my friends.

SOLVE REAL PROBLEMS WITH PROTOTYPES

I sat down with Damian and his bandmates Anya Wong, Aniqah Nadirah, and Nathan Cheng, and asked them to explain how the flashing contraption on their table was supposed to work.

Anya happily shared that their prototype was working successfully and they are now finishing their presentation slides.

“It’s about measuring the level of noise in an environment. Sometimes there are people who illegally cut down trees, cause noise pollution or go hunting in a forest. So if the noise level is over 85dB, that sensor will turn on the LED, to let them know there’s something wrong,” she explained excitedly.

Their prototype included a building in a forest, constructed from Lego. There was a sound level meter “outside” in the forest, which was connected to a Microbit and LED panel “inside” the building. I yelled at the prototype to trigger it, and it worked, with an audible alarm indicating that I had indeed violated the proposed noise restrictions.

“We wanted to solve the problem of noise pollution, but also detect illegal human activities such as hunting. So when they do these activities, the noise level will definitely increase,” said Anya, adding that the sensors placed in the forest would detect the noise.

If alerted to the illegal activity, authorities can then respond to the threat, she added. Another idea they came up with was to plant loudspeakers in the forest, which would automatically go off with warnings if the noise threshold was reached.

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