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Introducing Kids to STEM: A Sysco LABS – IgniterSpace Collaboration

by Sysco Labs Articles 15 October 2018

“Kids are born Scientists” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Kids are naturally curious, and this curiosity makes their minds perfect for learning. However, early childhood education rarely includes education in Science, Technology or Engineering, failing to take full advantage of their potential.

IgniterSpace on the other hand, is an organization that specializes in teaching STEM subjects to young children. It takes kids as young as 4 years old, and exposes them to the world of engineering, making it fun while they do so. They help kids bring out their ingenuity by helping them make small planes, generators and other simple technical devices. After being exposed to engineering, there are kids that have looked at everyday problems and come up with amazing solutions.

However, access to such education is limited, and many kids never have the chance to explore the potential that lies within them, particularly those of under-privileged circumstances.

The Maharagama Boys Home is a place where young boys who have either lost their parents, or are unable to be supported by their parents are homed. The boy’s home provides basic necessities and education  but lack the resources to make advanced educational programs available. That is why we chose to work with them.

Sysco LABS wanted to teach the fundamentals of engineering to these boys and help build a foundation from which they could explore their engineering creativity. To do so, we partnered up with IgniterSpace and SLASSCOM to give these boys an unforgettable experience.

The program was divided into three parts:

  1. Building a Glider
  2. A Coding Session
  3. Building a Generator

 

Building a Glider

The session was conducted by Harsha Wijendra and Isuru Samaranayake of Sysco LABS. In this session the kids learned about the basics of aerodynamics, center of gravity, how pressure works – all explained using everyday examples by the mentors. Once they got a basic understanding of these concepts, they started to build a glider using materials such as cardboard, A4 sheets, and medium sized BBQ sticks.

With only a little guidance, the kids were soon able to build near perfect gliders.

 

Let’s make if Fly

Commenting on his mentoring experience Isuru Samaranayake said, “Each of the kids were unique but they all showed talent, some of them were keen to learn something they didn’t know, and some, having more experience, were willing to try out new things. I wish them all the very best for their future.”

 

Coding Session

The next challenge was the coding session conducted by Udeni Jayawardhane, Vibodha Balalla, Rashali de Mel and Piyumi Sudusinghe of Sysco LABS.

The kids gathered together to build a simple game to hit a helicopter with a bullet.

In order to build this game, the kids had to learn:

  • How to keep an object continuously moving (the helicopter)
  • How to respond to keyboard events (the bullet)
  • How to detect the collision of two objects (target hit)
  • How to use variables (to keep track of the bullets)

The mentors each took charge of a group and coached the kids on the basics of programming. The kids, excited not just to play a game but build one, keenly listened in on the instructions, were not shy about asking questions and were soon on their way to building their first computer game.

 

Coding 101

When asked how the session went, Piyumi said “Teaching someone to code and coding for the first time is pretty difficult. But the kids here made my task easy by grabbing the concepts of coding quickly. They were quite inquisitive, asking plenty of questions and approached the task in front of them like playing a game. Watching their progress and seeing them completing their tasks made me quite happy.”

 

Building a Generator

The third and final session, was on how to build a small generator which can be powered a 1w LED. The equipment they had on hand were:

2 CD’s, 3 lids (off marmite bottles), a small popsicle stick, a round stick, a wooden board, a wooden cube, rubber bands, 12v motor, a female-female jumper cable, 1w LED and a straw.

The mentors Thiwanka Wimalasuriya and Dhananjaya Wimalasekera explained how the concept of a belt transmission works and how a Dynamo works. Using this knowledge, the kids began their journey of building a generator.

 

That flicker of light

Speaking about the session Dhananjaya Wimalasekera said “The boys were curious to learn. Each and every child asked different kinds of questions, showing how differently each of them understood the concepts. Watching them tackle the task was a brand new experience for me, one of the best days at work.”

Teaching kids is truly a special thing, instilling an excitement for engineering in the minds of the problem solvers of the future. A big thank you to SLASSCOM for providing the laptops, the volunteers at Sysco LABS for their contribution, and IgniterSpace for providing the materials to conduct this session.

If you too are interested in conducting a session such as this, reach out to Igniter Space on:

Phone: 0777 206 228

Website: https://www.igniterspace.com/

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