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IDA Lab on Wheels on a roll

last updated 03 November 2017
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Three new buses join the IDA Lab on Wheels fleet to visit schools to promote tech among the young.

Generation 2 of IDA's Lab on Wheels, a bus-based interactive programme to ignite passion in tech among the young through engaging and experiential activities, is rolling out.

Responding to soaring demand from schools for the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s (IDA) first Lab on Wheels bus, three more have been added to the fleet. 

EDC

IDA EDC Steve Leonard: “We needed more capability because more schools have been asking us for additional support.”

One will supplement the current primary school programme to introduce students to the basics of modern technology such as robotics, coding, drone programming and wearables.

The other two have been specially designed to meet the learning needs of secondary school students, allowing them to tinker with more advanced fabrication technologies such as 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters and virtual reality gadgets.

Mr Steve Leonard, IDA’s Executive Deputy Chairman, said since the first bus was launched in November 2014, it has visited 85 primary schools and hosted more than 25,000 students. 

“Some 51,000 hours of teaching have been delivered and almost 400,000 lines of codes were written by these primary four and five kids. But we needed more capability because more schools have been asking us for additional support.” 

With the addition of the three new buses as a springboard, IDA is preparing to spark off more passion for tech among students.

“If they want to learn more, these students can join us in our physical IDA Labs where they will have more resources, tools and instruction,” said Mr Leonard. 

Future-ready Skills

Launching the new buses at the Tech Saturday Pop-Up at Velocity@Thomson on 7 May, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information said the IDA Lab on Wheels programme supports the government’s vision to nurture a culture of experimentation and innovation by encouraging the young to explore and tinker with technology. 

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Students from SCGS showing their tech project to Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information.

“By encouraging a maker mindset, we can empower our young generations to solve real world problems with technology, and contribute meaningful projects that will improve our lives and benefit our communities. In addition, we want to foster computational thinking in children so that they will grow into adults who can approach challenges with sound reasoning and an analytical mind.” 

The skills that students pick up from the Lab on Wheels programme will go far in preparing them to be future-ready for the many demands that the Smart Nation journey will require from Singaporeans, added Dr Yaacob.

“The government will continue to invest where we can to bring about this change because this change is something which we can’t avoid. IT is coming in a big way and with our Smart Nation initiative, there will be many opportunities and I hope the kids who have been exposed to this, will one day consider a career in this sector.”

More than 30 secondary schools have already expressed interest in hosting IDA Lab on Wheels.

They include Bishan Park Secondary, Bukit View Secondary, Singapore Chinese Girls School and Spectra Secondary. Age-appropriate hardware and software such as Project Spark by Microsoft, Makey Makey as well as Sphero robotics will be introduced to secondary school students. 

“Riding on the success of Lab on Wheels for primary schools, MOE supports IDA’s initiative to extend the programme to our secondary school students.  It will complement our other efforts to expose our students to computational thinking, as part of the overall effort towards building Singapore as a Smart Nation,” said Mr Sng Chern Wei, Divisional Director, Curriculum Planning and Development at the Ministry of Education. 

Driving interest in Tech

Apart from school visits, these buses will also be deployed to selected public events as part of IDA’s community outreach efforts to make technology accessible to everyone.

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Mr Soon Yin Jie (left) from TinkerTanker hopes to inspire more children to explore the possibilities of technology

This will be done in collaboration with industry partners and organisations. 

For example, students from Nanyang Polytechnic used the bus and its equipment to teach computer literacy to dialysis patients from the National Kidney Foundation. One of the new buses will also be disabled-friendly, complete with assistive tech gadgets to better serve the special needs community.  

Industry partners are also helping to prepare young minds for their technology-driven future. 

IBM, for example, will be developing a curriculum based on the Internet of Things while SAP is looking to use its software solutions to help students understand and appreciate the growing role of data analytics. 

Several vendors and IDA partner companies were present at Tech Saturday Pop-Up to showcase some technologies designed for the young.

At the TinkerTanker booth, children were guided to build a simple electronic circuit for a greeting card which lights up when opened.

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Can you beat his record? Tee Chee Wee, 7, took just 20 minutes to build this robot on wheels.

Said TinkerTanker’s co-founder Mr Soon Yin Jie, “Once children see how easy it is to build something with technology using very simple snap-on circuit boards and LED lights, it stirs their interest and they will want to learn more.”

The company is working with IDA to develop an interactive curriculum to expose children to STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) education.

At the Tech Saturday event, primary one student Tee Chee Wee took only 20 minutes to build his first robotic toy car using the MakeBlock robotic kit. 

The car is able to follow a black line and avoid obstacles. 

“I’ve played with Lego building blocks before so this one was quite easy. Next time I want to build something bigger,” said the Fairfield Methodist student.


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