Learning outside the box

By Clara Lee

Students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) and the School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCSE) took modules last semester that moved them away from their textbooks and into the community to showcase their work.  

The Nanyang Chronicle spoke to these students about their modules’ most memorable moments and challenges.

This Is Yishun

PHOTO: BRYAN LEE

Held over the weekend of 4 and 5 Nov, a team of 26 students from the WKWSCI Photojournalism module held a free photo exhibition showcasing their works from the past semester.

Titled This Is Yishun, visitors got the chance to see the eponymous neighbourhood in a new, positive light through a collection of photo essays at the new Yishun Park Hawker Centre.

Yishun was selected on account of the town’s supposed “bad reputation” for a series of crimes, such as cat killings and homicides.

The students’ photo essays were centred around old businesses and trades in Yishun, putting residents such as the last remaining frame-maker in Singapore under the spotlight.

Apart from being a visual experience, the event also included an “Instagram walk” from Chong Pang to the exhibition venue. Participants who signed up received first-hand tips from social media influencers Cheryl Chew and Veronica Ang Singapore’s Instagrammers of The Year 2017 on getting the perfect shot.  

The students received recognition for their efforts when the event garnered media attention from local publications such as The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao and The New Paper.

PHOTO: BRYAN LEE

The exhibition was helmed by four students who pitched the idea to the class and and won with the most number of votes.

One of the four students, final-year WKWSCI student Abigail Ng, revealed how they had to delegate the workload by sorting the class into various portfolios – the exhibition team, publicity team, reporters and business managers.

“It’s a lot more work compared to taking an exam, but there is also a lot more purpose and we get to hone our skills,” said the 22-year-old.

Being in-charge of such an event allowed her to hone her management skills, especially in terms of human resource and making sure that they met important deadlines, she added.

“This module really exposed us to various challenges we typically aren’t used to facing in a written exam. Compared to posting photos online, physical space needs to be rationed more carefully,” Ng said.

The students were mostly left to their own devices and had the creative freedom to curate the exhibition however they pleased, said Mr Samuel He, the instructor in charge of the CS2044 Photojournalism module.

“I always like to teach in a way that isn’t restricted to the classroom because the nature of photography makes it a very visual medium. The students need to learn to put themselves out there,” said the 34-year-old.

“I don’t know if continuing with this mode of assessment would be feasible but I know that I would continue extending my students’ outreach beyond the campus.”

PHOTO: CHRISTY YIP

Building a better future, one robot at a time

In the labs of the School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCSE), 250 students taking the CZ3004 Multi-Disciplinary Design Project (MDP) module worked hard on their semester-long assignment.

Each group of eight students was tasked to build a robot that could traverse a 2-metre by 1.5-metre arena. The teams had a semester to create a fully-functioning machine that could avoid collision with the arena’s “walls” with the help of sensors and algorithms.

The winning teams would showcase their robots at NTU open houses and during visitations from distinguished alumni, where they would skilfully manoeuvre the robots through a maze.  These robots would also be put on display when prospective students visit NTU.

To encourage healthy competition and better results, the teams were ranked based on the amount of time it took for their product to find the “fastest path” from one end to another.

The leaderboard was updated on a weekly basis as students made improvements to their design, motivated by the desire to emerge triumphant in the final standing announced in week 13.

This mode of assessment has produced quality results with every cohort, as observed by course instructor, Dr Smitha K G.

“The students practically live in the lab during the semester, and it is through this project that eight very different individuals come together to work towards a common goal,” said Dr Smitha.

By complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, she believes that they can experience working with others when they enter the workforce where certain demands have to be met.

Taking this module in his third year at SCSE, Thomas Lim Jun Wei shares the same sentiment. Apart from the friendships forged through this journey, the 24-year-old believes that this module has taught him the importance of teamwork.

“Having such an assessment would be beneficial for future scenarios in the workforce, where we would have to deliver a fully-functioning product based on certain requirements,” he added.  

Final-year SCSE student Jerel Quay also agreed with the objectives of the course.

“I prefer this mode of assessment because it puts our theoretical knowledge to test in a real-life scenario. It’s very different seeing the things you have learnt about in textbooks come to life by your creation,” he said.

The 25-year-old added that despite the long hours, seeing his ideas come to fruition when the robot completed the course made it all worth it.

Some students even believe that examinations are rendered obsolete in this day and age.

SCSE student Lau Yi Hong, 26, said: “Most of us forget the information we have memorised for exams and at the end of the day, we would resort to Google anyway. But practical skills can never be Googled.”

Dr Smitha said that this opens up opportunities for students to put what they have done on display and encourages them to take ownership of their work.

“Such modules are crucial to the students’ learning experience. We can impart as much theoretical knowledge as we want but it does not beat (them) seeing it for themselves,” said Dr Smitha.

“I hope to see more modules like this across faculties and to let our students take their learning beyond the classroom setting,” she added.