IConDA 2017 opening ceremony officiated by the Chief Minister of Sarawak and mBot
The first ever International Conference on Computer and Drone Applications (IConDA) was held on November 9-11th in Kuching, Malaysia, and organized by Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak. IConDA aims to become a platform for scientists, researchers, academics, policy makers and government representatives, NGOs, and private sector representatives to share their knowledge on future applications for computers, robots and drones.
mBot were used at the opening ceremony next to a Miraball showing the conference name
During the conference, 5 keynote speeches and 20 technical papers were presented by speakers from Malaysia, India, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan, and Iran. Among the keynote speakers were Prof. Lian Ping Koh from University of Adelaide and Prof. Ben M Chen from the National University of Singapore (Advisor of the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) team at the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE)). Papers presented include Automatic Navigation and Landing of an Indoor Drone Quadrotor Using Aruco Marker and Aerial Surveillance of Public Areas with Autonomous Track and Follow Using Image Processing.
The Airblock from Makeblock is presented to the Chief Minister of Sarawak at the opening ceremony of the IConDA 2017
Makeblock’s Ultimate 2.0 and mBot were displayed at the STEM exhibition booth at the conference and used to demonstrate how can students program the robots using mBlock’s graphical programming interface. Additionally, an Airblock was presented to the Chief Minister of Sarawak at the opening ceremony.
Students from learning to program the mBot using the mBlock drag-and-drop coding system.
The partnership with Makeblock originates with Bengyong Lee, IConDA Chair and a Senior Lecturer at UiTM, who introduced Makeblock products to the university’s Computer Science department which adopted mBot as one of its fundamental teaching tools for introducing students to the world of STEM. In workshops arranged throughout 2017, students who had previously seen programming difficult and intimidating — written code looks to the uninitiated as an impenetrable barrier to getting computers or robots to do what you want — were able to experience writing code as something that is easy to get started with. This is thanks to mBot’s graphical programming language, and the ability to see the robot perform the coded actions and in turn making coding fun and intuitive.
As a Senior Lecturer, Lee tells Makeblock, “When first learning how to program, difficulties involving the understanding the programming language syntax can be a barrier for the learner. Besides, based on our university’s teaching experience, students will lose interest if asked to memorize and write programming code especially if the program is to display text-based output on a computer console only. To make learning programming more interesting, we were looking for a robotic tool that can be programmed with simple programming languages.”
Brain storming session of students at SMK Semerah Padi, Kuching, Sarawak to design their “Balloon Popping” mBot.
During three workshops at UiTM, mBots were used extensively by 100 students to learn about programming. The module for the teaching and learning during the workshops was downloaded from Makeblock’s website and used to give students the opportunity to program the mBot and learn about sequential, selection and repetition programming structures.
Students from SMK Sadong Hilir, Samarahan, Sarawak were assembling an mBot during one of the workshops.
Based on questionnaires given to students before and after attending the workshops, only 2% of the students have programming experience. The questionnaire data also showed that before the students attended the workshop, many thought programming to be difficult (34% Strongly agree and 7% Agree). “After attending the workshop, only 10% of the students strongly agreed that programming is difficult while 8% thought programming to be difficult. When it came to programming’s usefulness for their future careers, the part of students that strongly agreed to its importance increased from 12% to 28% after attending the workshop,” noted Lee.
Students at SMK Semerah Padi, Kuching, Sarawak and lecturers from the Universiti Teknologi MARA at the school.
UITM plans to expand their use of Makeblock products during 2018. One new use is to introduce students to Artificial Intelligence by programming an mBot to find its way out of a maze. Another is a series of innovation competitions, challenging students to integrate electronics from Makeblock’s DIY platform into their daily life activities in school or at home.