Those who can both do and teach…

When we founded A Posteriori, we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose focus of our previous careers as engineers and software developers.  We wanted to stay relevant in both the Commercial industry as well as find a niche in Education.

Besides creating our new STEM education business, developing original curriculum, and teaching at MOE and International Schools, last year we also ground our teeth on a wall-climbing robot, which we exhibited at the Singapore Robotics Games event. We won a Unique Design award for our efforts.

Early draft

This year we developed and sold a custom-made product to the Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC) to help with anonymized grant-proposal decision-making events.  The product, an Audience Response System (ARS), went live last month and I was extremely proud seeing it used last week. Our clients and their end-users had nothing but praises for our work, and a list of feature enhancements, of course. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Health and the NMRC on other projects in the future.

A Posteriori is not just about LEGOs and Drones.

We intend to continue to make real products, some just for fun or artistic value, and some for creating commercial or scientific value.

And we hope to take our students on some of our Making adventures in our new Mega MakerSpace & STEM Learning Center.

Our new Mega MakerSpace & STEM Learning Center

We opened the doors to our new MakerSpace designed for both kids and adults earlier this year.  It’s located at the MEGA building in Woodlands, Singapore.

Our first intake of students was brought to us by one of our partners, Yap Kwee Lin, who introduced us in the first place, and is an important part of the origin story of A Posteriori.

Photo Credit: Jack Yam

The kids took us on a Mission to the Moon, as part of their participation in this year’s FIRST LEGO League Jr event.

We enjoyed creating the unique curriculum blending Science (electrolysis of water, solar-powered electronics), Technology (3D printing, indoor planter), Engineering (WeDo Robotics), and Math (lunar orbit mechanics, and various other problems).  We even went on a field trip to observe the night sky at the Galaxy Community Center Observatory.

The kids and their families were super-keen, which made the experience really unique and gratifying.

And, of course, they took great pride in their work and won a trophy for their efforts!

Photo Credit: Jack Yam

We are hoping to expand our student class of 2019 during the June Holidays.

Robocup 2019 – Clinchers and JC Conundrum

Our students from Swiss Cottage, Pei Hwa Secondary, and Zhenghua Primary participated in various sub-leagues of the 9th Robocup Singapore Open & Competition this past weekend.

When we teach, there is always a lot of pressure to get the kids on a path to excel.  We are happy to help the kids reach their true potential, as long as they’re having fun.  The Robocup CoSpace Rescue challenge is built like a game, and so the platform lends itself to a fun-filled curriculum with a built-in drive to success (and win the game!).

The kids showed great aptitude in this league, as they clinched first, second, and sometimes even third places (not officially allowed by competition guidelines) in the various fixtures and age groups.  We are looking to establish a more formal partnership with the Robocup league organizers to provide our original curriculum, based on the CoSpace challenge, to more schools in Singapore.  And make the 10th Singapore Open a great success next year.

One pet peeve, our secondary school teams who joined the more competitive RCJ league faced major challenges from Junior Colleges, and so the Under 19 category is going to be quite impossible to surmount – and the coveted spot to represent Singapore internationally quite out of reach…

micro:bits for Good – element14 Education Giveaway

Kudos to element14 for their work on growing their community of makers and educators.  I happened on their Great micro:bit Education Giveaway publication while looking for out-of-stock micro:bits packages.  I had a compelling story about our work with at-risk youth at Boys’ Town and Muhammadiya Welfare Home, and now we have a bunch of micro:bits we can use to do more good!

We are contacting our non-profit partners to find a good home for the micro:bit Club pack, before the year-end holiday season.

Paying it forward pays back…

New Collaboration With Camp Asia

Earlier this year our friends at Tinkertanker contacted us with a sort of unsolicited welcome to the Tech Education marketplace.   We really appreciated that professional courtesy.  And we’ve been collaborating with them on several projects ever since, teaching Secondary level courses like Arduino and Python/Processing.

They also referred us to Camp Asia – a leading holiday camp and extracurricular activity provider run by Cognita, the owner of both Australian and Stamford American International Schools.  We built up our relationship with Camp Asia, and now we will be participating more closely with them on their Tech Savvy offerings as their so-called Head Coaches for Creative Coding and Electronic MakerSpace – original curricula curated especially for this collaboration.

Thank you Tinkertanker and Camp Asia for helping us grow and putting your trust in us!

Sustainability & :bit-novation @ Maha Bodhi School

Integrating a mess of controller, wires, sensor, servo and LEDs into a security system.

Throughout July and August we delivered our biggest educational program yet – a cohort of ~315 students for 10.5 hours of micro:bit-based, physical computing and making module following a sustainability and innovation contextual arc.

The kids got to explore all sorts of external electronic components, from simple LEDs to water pumps and servos, hygrometers and IR proximity sensors. It was a breadth-first bonanza, but the class sizes (1:40 ratio) and short session durations (1.5 hr) prevented us from really digging down, although at the end the kids were testing their own limits, which was great to see.

Water & Electronics – not the best mix… Still, this girl team of makers didn’t fry anything!

I think we could concentrate on something less open-ended and get better student participation rates, sacrificing our own interest and the rare oddballs who are best-suited for a more creative approach.

Kids’ final projects ranged from Bluetooth-powered messaging between multiple micro:bits, proximity-triggered security systems with buzzers and LEDs, and self-watering plants. The sustainability gambit colored all of the work and learning.

It was a labor of love, but boy was it labor. We sourced electrical components, packaged hundreds of kits, created a custom-tailored curriculum, and printed hundreds of personal worksheets & guides. This is about the largest I’d want to get for a while. Any bigger and I think we’d lose a sense of what we’re actually doing.

 

A Posteriori @ Technology Education and Agriculture Automation Conference in Sarawak, Malaysia

Earlier this month, we continued to deliver our STEAM in Singapore Schools series of talks during the launch of a new Drone Operators Course at the Sumiran Eco Camp outside Kuching, Sarawak on the Malaysian island of Borneo.  Our participation here is due to our informal partnership with a consortium of business and academic interests trying to help revolutionize Palm Oil farming utilizing automation and modern data analytics and agronomic technology.

As STEAM educators and engineers are our role in this venture is yet to be completely clarified, but with the launch of several Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) & Robotics Academies in Borneo and Kuala Lumpur, we may be getting closer to operational requirements for STEAM education and basic Drone flight and controller programming courses.

We look forward to working with Captain Sudhir and his team in the near future.

A Posteriori @ SENS.Club’s Salon on Technology in Education and Vice Versa

Last night I provided a brief introduction of our company, our practices, and our mission to a professional, largely-French speaking crowd at a public forum on Technological Transformation in Education.  Tuyen Thanh, one of our trainers, was kind enough to hook me up with Maltem/SENS.Club for the gig.  While this crowd-schmoozing is not part of our normal shtick, it was nice to discuss the benefits of technology in the classroom, the disruptions caused by the democratization of knowledge, and some of the evils inherent in mobile devices and other dystopia-inspiring memes…

It was also an honor to sit on a panel with various professors from prestigious schools like SMU and ESSEC business school, as well as the current French Minister of Digital Transformation in France.

For a slideshow of my talk on Constructionism and A Posteriori brand of disruption in the TechEd marketplace, follow this link.

Zhenghua Primary Clinches 1st Place at Robocup

We are very proud of our students, especially when they beat all expectations and outperform against all odds.

When we won the contract to teach the Junior and Senior CCA Robotics Clubs at Zhenghua Primary, it seemed like a straight-forward LEGO Mindstorms contract.  However, we have found out that CCA’s are never just one thing… As long as we behave like teachers or mentors, and not product vendors, we will get to experience a host of exciting curve balls thrown at us, based on the demands and interests of the program managers and their students.  In this case, we were asked to provide Robocup CoSpace Rescue training after just 2 weeks operating a LEGO curriculum there, and fortunately we were ready for the ask.

Last weekend, the teacher-in-charge sent me a congratulatory notice about his club’s first place win at the national Robocup Junior event – one of the best achievements they ever had.

Pei Hwa Secondary – Teams working frantically to outdo each other in a CoSpace Rescue in-class challenge

RoboCup Singapore this year had a lot of technical issues,  leading to the competition being delayed a few weeks back unexpectedly, and taking place during a weekend after the schools normally stop the afternoon extracurricular clubs, so the kids can focus on their end-of-semester exams and projects.  Still, the Science Center Annex was packed on Friday afternoon, during the registration and practice session.  The atmosphere was charged and we met teachers and teams we work with from Zhenghua and Temasek Primary schools, and Pei Hwa and Swiss Cottage Secondary schools. We have been working with some of those kids on these teams over the past 3-4 months using various Robotics curricula, sometimes specifically training them towards the Robocup competition challenges – namely line-following techniques, C language, and event-based programming.

RoboCup Grand Prix & Rescue Line challenges require robust line-following capability: tricky maps that change from round to round.

I’ve enjoyed the competitive atmosphere of technology challenges, ever since my earliest days at Tufts University, working with my freshman-year roommate on our entry to the American Nuclear Society automation conference Robotics Challenge in Savannah, Georgia.  Two decades forward, I’m still enjoying it both vicariously through our client schools, as well as with our company’s ongoing efforts to operate as engineers and makers, not just educators.

Kudos to Singapore’s Education (MOE) and InfoComm (IMDA) ministries, and their various academia partners, for making an effort in this area – motivating and subsidizing a relatively wide array of events, challenges, and competitions to help all students reach their true potentials.

Latest Offering: Board Game Design + 3D Printing

Last weekend, Cort and I tested out our first IMDA-sponsored course, free and open to the public.  The theme was Board Game Design, and we used 3D design (utilizing the free and child-friendly TinkerCAD) and 3D printing to provide a technological edge to the otherwise traditional medium.  We held the 6-hour workshop over 2 days in the IMDA Pixel Lab MakerSpace at Tampines Regional Library.

We limit front-of-the-class instruction time, and try to spend the bulk of our lessons helping learners with specific problems. This encourages the broadest learning experience – lots of trial and error, creativity as no rigid script or prescription to follow, and dynamic, on-the-job learning. Just like the real world!

The workshop time was divided into three main parts:

  • Learning & playing table-top games, especially popular, cooperative board games like Forbidden Island and Castle Panic
  • Game Design Theory
  • 3D Design & 3D Printing (of anything, but cool replacement board game pieces for boring pawns from the above games was the unrealized holy grail…)

Kids playing cooperative board games together, with some guidance from myself and my daughter, who has become an adept player. Cooperative board games teach strategic thinking, collaboration, leadership skills, and creativity – but mostly, they’re a super-fun way for a family or group of friends to spend time engaged in an activity together, and not consumed with mobile devices…

We had a wide range of relatively young subscribers from 6-12 years old, so it was a bit of a challenge to keep a strict pace.  However, it was great watching the older kids bringing the younger ones along on their gaming sessions.  And the youngsters of the bunch were surprisingly adept at manipulating 3D objects in TinkerCAD.

Every student designed their own original creation. No script, no limits – only open-ended creativity allowed here…

Each child left the workshop with one original 3D design printed on the single 3D printer provided in this MakerSpace.  The lack of resources was a frustration for us and the students alike, so we’ve taken that to heart in our latest pitch to a primary school interested in this curriculum for its Infocomm & Media Club.  We hope to bring this original technology module to a wider audience around the island.

My 9-year-old daughter participated, and she came home full of ideas she wanted to test out on TinkerCAD – so, now I finally have an excuse to give my wife to buy that 3D printer we can’t fit anywhere…