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Engineers teach students how to make robots in 90 minutes

May 4, 2016

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

While engineers can be handsome, naive, cool or cute... their most fantastic characteristic is, however, that they can guide teenage students through a creative project of coding and help them create robot handicrafts in 90 minutes out of only plush and plastic toys.

Earlier this year, we went to Mayu Primary School, a school set up for children of migrant workers located in an alley of Shijingshan District, Beijing. As we walked into a classroom of bright colors, we saw groups of four kids in uniforms, each joined by a “big kid” in a blue vest.

We soon learned that these blue-vested adults were engineers from Qualcomm Wireless Communication Technologies (China) Limited; they were here to teach these students how to write code and make robot crafts.

The classroom is called “Qualcomm Adream Center.” Qualcomm Incorporated donated this classroom to Mayu Primary School in collaboration with Shanghai Adream Charitable Foundation. The Adream Center is a special venue for Adream project activities. A simple launch ceremony was held that today.

After the launch ceremony, the kids of Mayu Primary School got to experience the magic of science and technology for the first time in a fascinating science class. This is the purpose of the Adream Center — helping children expand their horizons, enrich knowledge, build confidence and fly toward their dreams.

At the start of the student project, the children were told they needed to begin making creative robots themselves. One just can’t help being curious — can a robot be so simple to make? The engineers then explained to the students that to make robot crafts, they would only need basic coding knowledge and that they will not be making the complex robots we normally see on TV.

For the project, there were a total of 16 pupils that divided up into groups of two, which shared a computer, a panel and several pieces of wire.

All the students listened attentively to the engineers who were giving instructions as they together connected the circuit board to the computer and controlled the rotating speed of the little motor through codes on the computer screen. The children had never learned programming before — this was their first time ever.

After an hour and a half of learning, the children seemed to have learned the full process and started to make their DIY robot crafts. To make the crafts, the Qualcomm engineers had prepared material kits with plush toys of various kinds, model planes, toy cars, color paper, hot melt adhesive, color pens, etc. 

With all the toys in front of them, what kind of DIY robot crafts would the students make? “The engineers may be very strong in technology, but they are not the kids’ match in imagination,” said Qualcomm Wireless Communication Technologies’ CSR Manager Cao Nan confidently. Within 60 minutes, with the help and instruction of the engineers, the children set up various scenes out of the materials. Before this, I was doubtful if the students could accomplish this. However, when I saw their crafts with my own eyes, I felt compelled to appreciate the kids’ design and imagination. The children made great success in only 60 minutes.

“I used to think that a robot was a complex thing. Now I can also make one — I’ve never dreamed about it before, and it was not hard to learn at all,” said Cheng Cheng (alias) of Mayu Primary School. He designed the panda with rolling eyes by using two little motors. You could tell he was so proud of it.

After displaying of the pupils’ crafts, Teacher Liu of Mayu Primary School said the whole experience was amazing. “We have also had science classes before, but they were less interactive and creative and with little fun. This approach to teaching really kindles the enthusiasm and passion of children.”

As the only female engineer from Qualcomm Wireless Communication Technologies attending the session this time, Wang Ying helped the students who made the “Airport and Parking Lot.” She said, “The children are so imaginative, and they designed it all by themselves. We only teach them the technology and help them with the project. It’s just like reliving our teenage years!”

This science program is not the first one Qualcomm has held. The project, called Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab, originated in 2014 in the U.S., at Qualcomm company headquarters. The lab is opened to students from age 11 to 15, with engineers teaching them to code and create robot crafts.

This is the first time Qualcomm held the Thinkabit Lab at a school for children of migrant workers. With the engineers’ instruction, these teenagers got to experience the magic and fun of making robots.

According to a Qualcomm spokesperson, the company is now in the process of building a Thinkabit Lab for its Chinese subsidiary. When the Lab is ready, they will invite children to learn how to code and make more complex robots, creating learning opportunities and a better education environment for children from underprivileged families. Learn more at Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab.

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