2019 marks the second-year consecutive National Robotics Competition. Co-organized by ACF and Program the World Association (PTWA), this year, 114 teams participated welcoming 248 students and teachers from across Taiwan. The competition, which took place for the first time in Taitung, was held at the Junyi School of Innovation. While for some, it was as far as a 10-hour journey, the enrollment figures were still an increase from the year before. Although the competition still recognized winning teams, it emphasizes that winning is not the main goal of the competition, but rather, the learning process. Founder of the National Robotics Competition, Alvin Su who is also Founder of PTWA and Professor of Computer Science and Information Engineering at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) envisions the competition to be a light-hearted co-learning experience; for it to take place in the remote east coast to encourage tech education in the area.
Sponsored by Pegatron Corporation, as part of encouraging participants to co-learn and progress with other teams, the 2019 competition requires all teams to use an open-source software in which users are granted the rights to study, change and distribute the software freely. Using an open-source software enabled all teams to gain access and analyze one another’s coding strategies after the competition. For the winning team, they were required to present their coding strategies and demonstrate how they succeeded which reinforced the core value and spirit of the competition.
Several of the 2019 teams were participants of the 2018 competition. Repeat competitors demonstrated noticeable growth in terms of technique as well as the complexity of the choice of equipment – from ultrasound to infrared, or store-bought motherboards to self-made. Su believes that the mission to promote tech education is not truly to promote learning coding, but rather to learn to incorporate technology and AI into daily lives. It is to inspire youths to incorporate coding to support their interests whether it is drawing, music or cooking. Before the founding of the National Robotics Competition, Su would go to schools in the remote with NCKU students to teach basic coding which was when PTWA was founded. PTWA’s vision is to promote and teach basic programming and the maker program in the remote of Taiwan. Technology is a tool that can minimize the gap between the rich and the poor. Su believes that in bringing tech education to the remote Huatung, it could give its youths the tool to change their futures.
PTWA also conducts Train the Trainer Programs so that teachers island-wide can receive training. To encourage more participants, Su designed a curriculum that makes teaching simple. Their hard work and advocacy echoes the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the same direction. MOE now recognizes the importance of tech education and requires living technology and computer science as mandatory Junior and Senior High programs. Additionally, MOE has granted NT$2.1B to support new computer science equipment in schools, and committed to train over 1,000 computer science teachers in three years. For ACF, besides collaborating with PTWA in the National Robotics Competition, the summer and winter of 2019, ACF supports Train the Trainer Workshops where trainers once coached by Su lead the workshops for trainers to-be. ACF hopes that through the sessions, more partnerships with schools will be formed and more educators will benefit from PTWA’s training resources. On the final day of the competition, ACF Chair Yen shares a closing thought that even in a future where jobs are substituted by technology, the human communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity will never be replaced. Su hopes that in the future, the youths of Huatung will have the coding ability to find jobs whilst remaining in their hometowns, and that in doing so, they will be able to help change the futures of their communities.
Educators Taking the Lead Teacher Kuihan Lu, Hualien Taiping Elementary School Coding education in Hualien is relatively advanced compared with Taitung. It is because of the efforts of Teacher Kuihan Lu from Hualien Taiping Elementary School who since year 2010 recognized the importance of tech education and self-learned coding and Scratch. Since 2016, at the Yuli Elementary School, Lu opened free coding classes every Tuesday for teachers and students. Lu also leads Train the Trainer Workshops in Hualien, with workshops taking place in the north, mid and south of the county. Lu believes that in doing so, it not only encourages more participants, but teachers in each area can co-learn and support one another even after the workshop. Hengjie Hsu, Kids’ Bookhouse Although Teacher Hengjie Hsu did not have a background in Computer Science, he took up the responsibility to learn and teach coding to youths at the Kids’ Bookhouse, an afterschool center for underprivileged youths. Every weekend he devotes his time to work with youths to practice and discuss coding. He encourages youths to design their own codes with little guidance. In the National Robotics Competition, the Kids’ Bookhouse team won third place. It demonstrates that even with little resources the afterschool center can offer, they can still achieve high. Hsu is one of Alvin Su’s the trainees from the Train the Trainer Program.