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#TECH: Winning solutions

Using STEM knowledge, secondary students put their minds together to solve problems in society

THE Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of schools did not deter some Form 1 and 2 students from around the Klang Valley from coming out with solutions to issues faced by local communities.

Thanks to Samsung and Universiti Malaya (UM), which initiated the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, the students had a platform to develop their ideas based on their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) knowledge.

The competition, which started in early October last year, lasted for more than two months, and gave birth to three innovative solutions from the participating students.

The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition fostered innovative thinking, creative problem-solving and teamwork. It was executed in collaboration with the UM STEM Centre.

The participants were from schools that the UM STEM Centre regularly engaged with for various STEM activities to enhance their learning experience.

INNOVATIVE THEMES

Participants were required to identify an issue faced by the community and develop a solution based on STEM technology.

Ideas could focus on any of these themes: health, education, environmental and social issues. In teams of three, the students would then submit essays depicting the problem and how STEM technology could be the solution.

In the second round, 10 shortlisted teams were required to refine their ideas and showcase them in a PowerPoint presentation.

Three teams made it to the finals after presenting their ideas and creating a prototype. They also submitted a video recording of the presentation and the functions of the prototype.

The three teams were Team A.I.R. from SMK Seksyen 10 Kota Damansara, Team EUNOIA from SMK (P) Sri Aman and Team STEM SRI U from SMK Sri Utama.

They were assessed by a panel of judges based on the feasibility of the idea; creativity and uniqueness of the solution; the application of STEM knowledge; and effectiveness of their presentations.

THE SOLUTIONS

Team A.I.R. looked at the constant water disruption in the Klang Valley and came up with a solution to detect water pollution, which directly causes this disruption.

"The constant water disruption causes a lot of inconvenience to everyone. We hope our solution will have a positive impact on society," said team leader Hafiy Addin Hizamel.

The team, which also comprised Nur Auni Faqihah Fakhrurrazi and Ayuni Illya Azmy, was guided by teacher Noraini Mohd Zain.

Hafiy Addin explained that water quality was currently monitored manually, resulting in late detection of any pollution.

"This eventually leads to a shutdown of the water treatment plant. This can be avoided if the water operator has an early warning monitoring system. When pollution in the water supply passes a certain limit, an alert will be sent to the operator to shut down the pumps before the pollution reaches the treatment plant," he explained.

To monitor the quality of water in real time, Team A.I.R. developed a solution with STEM where a sensor monitors and transfers data on water quality using the Internet of Things (IoT) application.

This will enable the water operator to better manage water supply and minimise water disruption issues, said Hafiy Addin.

Team EUNOIA, which took second place, developed an idea to improve overall indoor air quality.

The team comprised Ng Xin Ning, Reanya Velaithan and Nayli Syazwina Ezaham and worked under the guidance of teacher Bahiyah.

Their innovative solution was BreatheWall, a smart "green wall" designed to reduce harmful pollutants and surrounding heat while reducing noise levels in crowded places.

It works by increasing the density of indoor plants, which also significantly reduces indoor air pollutants.

The wall is equipped with an automated lighting system, a moisture sensor and an automated watering system.

BreatheWall combines multiple elements of STEM while integrating the IoT for mobile application for interaction and monitoring.

FACIAL RECOGNITION

The third prize winner, Team STEM SRI U, looked at a contact tracing solution in light of the current pandemic.

As many people are not comfortable using a pen to register, the team developed a facial recognition and thermal scanner app as an alternative to the QR code and thermal scanner.

Via a thermal scanner, one's temperature is recorded. Contact details are only required for the first visit. For subsequent visits, only a face scan is necessary.

The team, comprising Naomi Tan, Kong She Xuan and Ong Zhi Qing, worked under the guidance of teacher Suryani Mohayiddin.

WHAT THE TEAMS WON

Team A.I.R., winner of the competition, received Samsung products worth RM16,900, which will go to the school.

Each student also received up to RM7,000 worth of Samsung products.

The second prize winner, Team EUNOIA, received products worth up to RM13,500 for their school while each student walked away with products worth RM6,000.

The third prize winner, Team STEM SRI U, received products valued at RM10,000 for their school while the students received products worth RM5,400 each.

THE CHALLENGES

Collaborating and coming out with a solution during the pandemic were indeed challenging but the students made it happen using online and mobile resources.

"We held most of our discussions on WhatsApp and Google Meet," said Hafiy Addin, adding that they also met at his house with the consent of his parents.

Team member Nur Auni Faqihah said their teacher guided them throughout the process.

"We discussed the idea with our teacher and she would tell us the aspects to improve on," she said.

Besides doing their research, the students also consulted their elders, mentors and teachers to develop the solution.

"As we had to present our idea and solution to a panel of judges, we practised over and over again to build up our confidence," said Hafiy Addin.

Samsung Malaysia Electronics' director of corporate affairs Datuk Roh Jae Yeol said the out-of-the-box solutions and innovative thinking demonstrated by the participants were "impressive".

"These remarkable young students developed tangible solutions to problems faced by our communities. It is our aim through the competition to provide today's youth with an avenue to pursue a career in STEM," he said.

Universiti Malaya STEM Centre head, Dr Mas Sahidayana Mokhtar, said the youth of today are dealing with constantly evolving technology.

"The competition helps in strengthening STEM knowledge among youths and encourages them to think creatively to solve problems and come out with new ideas for a better future," she said.

"The ideas and solutions from the participants are practical and impactful in solving the many challenges that communities face today. It is my hope that the competition will continue to nurture future STEM innovators and leaders," she added.

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