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Homeschool Youth on an Invention Sprint!

Inventiveness is a highly-priced quality that many seek to acquire, particularly in the VUCA world. One of the forerunners in nurturing the spirit of inventiveness among the young in Singapore is the IDE Academy. A proponent of introducing STEM at home, it offers an exciting menu of structured programmes in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

One such event is the Invention Sprint workshop, which was conducted in collaboration with Temasek Shophouse and KidsGlobal during from November to December 2021. This workshop guided its youth participants through a seven-step invention process to identify and solve real-world problems based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The youth participated in six sessions over the course of three weeks, coming up with non-working prototypes of inventions that were displayed over the month of January 2022 at the Temasek Shophouse.

Image credit: Kalsum Harun

Enter: The Homeschool Inventors

Six homeschoolers took part in this workshop. Their passion and talents came through via their prototypes that were intended to provide creative solutions to problems such as littering, water scarcity, energy wastage and recycling.

The participants chose a combination of individual and group work, developing their prototypes and presentations. Two homeschooling teams comprising of Emma Yan, Luqman Hakim Kamaludeen and Elisha Lee, were interviewed and had their projects featured by Channel NewsAsia.

For Emma, it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to collaborate with her best friend, who was not a homeschooler.

“We knew each other since we were toddlers… I would say that our working experience was really fun because the teachers were always there to help and they would joke around to lighten the mood when we were rushing to get the prototype done. But just being able to work with my best friend on something (that) we both want to do, is in general, fun.”

Emma Yan

Surprised at her son’s outcome for the project, Kalsum Harun, shared why she had persuaded Luqman to participate in the workshop despite his lack of interest in STEM:

“Luqman does not have the kind of exposure to STEM or inventiveness as much as I wish I had provided him. The closest activity relating to invention that we have been able to sustain the longest is watching the TV series, Shark Tank, as a family. However, Luqman has a keen eye for social issues. Since this Invention Sprint has adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals as its framework, I felt that it was a good in route for him to discover the beauty of STEM and the inventive spirit. I also love that the programme gives the option for children to collaborate. In Luqman’s case, his working partner is someone who has a deep interest in STEM and thus could compensate on the technical aspects of the project.

Kalsum Harun

These teams’ successful projects reflect more than their potential in inventiveness, but their ability for effective collaborations across social groups and varied skill sets! Homeschool Singapore approached these youth to find out more about their inventions. Henceforth, they shared with us their presentation material for the workshop based on the questions crafted by IDE Academy.

We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we do!

Actually A Bin

by Emma Yan & Sarah Chua

Proudly showing the components of their prototype. Image credit: IDE Academy

IDE Academy: What is the problem that you wish to address with your invention?

Emma & Sarah: The problem we hope to address is — “how do we make it easier to clean contaminated recyclables?” Most of the time, contaminated recyclables are not cleaned but are discarded along with other rubbish that is to be incinerated. There is a lost opportunity for these items to be recycled.

A side effect of this rubbish being dirty is that it gets incinerated. The greater the volume of rubbish to be incinerated, the more air pollution there is. By addressing the issue of contaminated recyclables, we hope to increase the volume of recycled items and as a positive side outcome,  decrease the volume of rubbish to be incinerated, thereby decreasing air pollution.

IDE Academy: What triggered you to work on this problem?

Emma & Sarah: We’ve watched documentaries on Recycling and learned that many items were not able to be recycled as they were contaminated with food residue. Because of the food residue on the recyclables, the Recycling Centre is unable to take them in to be made into something new. The Recycling Centre also does not have the time to wash each and every piece of contaminated recyclables. In the end, more trash is must be incinerated, which causes greater air pollution. 

IDE Academy: What is your solution? How does your invention work?

Emma & Sarah: We all know that not everyone feels the same way about recycling and most of us do not take time to wash recyclables contaminated with food residue. Sarah and I came up with the A.A.B. to make it convenient for everyone to do their part and increase the volume of recyclables getting recycled.

The A.A.B. is to be placed at the void deck where there is a water source, a drain and an electricity source. The contaminated recyclables are deposited into a basket in the A.A.B.  The recyclables are washed and the dirty water is drained away through holes in the basket and out of the bin into the drain. Once the washing is done, workers from the recycling company will collect the cleaned recyclables and bring them to the Recycling Centre for recycling.

IDE Academy: How does your invention help?

Emma & Sarah: The invention would help by increasing the rate of recycling and the clean recyclables could be used to make something new. As the rate of recycling increases, the rate of pollution would also decrease as there would be less incineration happening.

IDE Academy: What are some challenges you encountered during the process?

Emma & Sarah: Our 1st model was a variant of the A.A.B bin that only had a water spray, without any drainage. This was a problem because the trash would be soaking in the water which would make some items corrode and affect other items together with it. We modified our prototype and added a dirty water bucket, a basket with drain holes and a stand under the basket to elevate it so that the water is able to drain from the bottom as well.

IDE Academy: What are your hopes for the invention?

Emma & Sarah: Although we feel that there are still some improvements to be made to the invention, we hope that our invention will really make a difference in recycling and pollution. We hope Recycling Companies will pick up our idea and work with us to make the A.A.B a reality so that, together, we can increase the volume of recyclables and make a positive difference to the environment.

Sustainable Heat Converter

by Zekiel Goh

Zekiel Goh delivered a polished presentation at the Show and Tell event. Image credit: Kalsum Harun

IDE Academy: What is the problem that you wish to address with your invention?

Zekiel Goh: The problem that I identified and solved was that we do not have an energy source that is sustainable, reliable, easy to use and takes a shorter time to produce the same amount of energy as solar panels. The USND goal that I was working on was sustainable and clean energy.

IDE Academy: What triggered you to work on this problem?

Zekiel Goh: When researching, I realised that about 40% to 60% of the energy used to cook food is wasted. While ideating, I thought: “what if the excess heat energy generated by the fire from the kitchen stove used to cook meals could be used to power other devices or contribute to the household electrical supply?”

IDE Academy: What is your solution? How does your invention work?

Zekiel Goh: I invented the Sustainable Heat-Converter 1.0. It converts the excess heat energy into electrical energy, unlike the solar panel which needs to be installed at a place where there is sunlight as the solar panels convert light energy to electrical energy. The solar panel is also weather-dependent which means that it depends on sunlight and if there is no sunlight, the solar panel can’t convert energy, unlike my invention which can be installed on a kitchen hood or anywhere near the kitchen stove.

This is how my invention works: as the heat comes in through the funnel, into the holes of the device, the hot air gets trapped in the chamber (because hot air rises), and goes into the converter which will convert the heat energy into electrical energy. The converted electrical energy will be stored in the dry cell. When you press the button, the stored electrical energy from the dry cell will flow through the wires into the household electrical supply mains or it can also power another device. In the future, I will make the device heat-proof and waterproof.

Autobin

by Dayna Teo

Dayna explaining her invention to a visitor to her station. Image credit: Diana Ong

IDE Academy: What is the problem that you wish to address with your invention?

Dayna Teo: The problem is that people these days have tons of rubbish in their hands and just throw it on the floor when there is no rubbish bin around or near them – whether it is in a park or a mall.

IDE Academy: What triggered you to work on this problem?

Dayna Teo: How I figured out the idea to invent an Auto Bin was when my family and I were in East Coast Park and we could not find a bin to throw away our food wrappers. So I thought: “How about I make a bin to move around in the park so it is more convenient for people to throw their trash easily?

IDE Academy: What is your solution? How does your invention work?

Dayna Teo: You can use an app called AutoBinFinder, type your location, and then click on the symbols of the Auto Bin on your mobile phone. It will come to you. The Auto Bin also has a flashlight so that people can see it clearly at night.

Eco-Washer

by Luqman Hakim Kamaludeen & Elisha Lee

Luqman Hakim stands proud with his team’s prototype. Image credit: Kalsum Harun

IDE Academy: What is the problem that you wish to address with your invention?

Luqman: The problem we want to solve is to help rural communities gain access to clean drinkable water. This invention addresses the UNSD Goal of Water and Sanitation. One-in-four people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. This number can decrease to less than one-third of the population of poor countries, especially in rural communities. Unsafe water sources are responsible for 1.2 million deaths each year.

IDE Academy: What triggered you to work on this problem?

Luqman: Singapore has successfully developed a technology to purify wastewater into water of potable quality. We know this as NEWater.

Since this technology is already available, I wondered if we can develop a similar one for use in domestic or community settings to address this urgent problem.

IDE Academy: What is your solution? How does your invention work?

Luqman: The Eco-Washer is a dishwasher that is powered by solar energy. While it can be used to wash a variety of cutlery and crockery, the Eco-Washer will continually filter the water used and convert it back into clean water.

Channel NewsAsia: How does your invention help?

Luqman: Clean water is not readily available in all countries especially in their rural communities. When water is scarce and it requires a great deal of effort to obtain clean water, people may skimp over sanitation needs like the washing of hands and dishes. Pathogens build up over time on unclean dishes and utensils, causing food-borne illnesses. Cases can be serious such that they lead to death.

There is also a gender dimension to this problem. Women living near the Sahara Desert in Africa and in some parts of South Asia walk an average of 6 km to collect clean water. According to UNICEF, women and girls spend an estimated total of 200 million hours hauling water every day. Engaging in such labour-intensive work takes away their opportunity to do more productive and meaningful work, especially pursuing an education. We hope to help them balance these needs by bringing clean water in domestic and community settings.

Channel NewsAsia: What are some challenges you encountered during the process and how did you overcome these challenges?

Luqman: After going through a variety of ideas, we thought, “Why don’t we kill two birds with one stone and combine cleaning dishes and utensils with a constant source of potable water?” That was how we had ended up with the main idea of the Eco-Washer.

The primary challenge in designing the Eco-Washer was how to enable it to perform its tasks with minimal energy. To address the energy issue in the invention, we decided to incorporate the use of solar energy.

Channel NewsAsia: What are your hopes for the invention?

Luqman: We hope that this invention can be further developed – through strategic partnerships with those already at the forefront of water technology. If we get to work with PUB, for example, we can fuse our design with current NEWater technology. By not having to reinvent the wheel, we can focus on how to produce the EcoWasher on a large scale and make it affordable.

Homeschool inventors represent! Image credit: Kalsum Harun

What’s Next?

The homeschoolers we spoke to are keen to follow up on their invention journeys. Dayna has signed up for another term of STEMIE Class, while Luqman and Elisha will be working on their project during the upcoming holidays. It seems that the workshop had a commendable impact on our youth. Kalsum Harun, who sat through the workshop on the first day shared with us,

I love what the instructor said on the first day of the workshop when he unpacked for the youth what inventiveness was about. Very often, we place the focus of invention upon the end goal or the product but the more important thing would be to follow through with the inventive process.”

Kalsum Harun

Homeschool Singapore is proud to acknowledge the efforts of the homeschooling children who participated in this year’s Youth Invention Sprint. Our world is characterised by technology advancing at a breakneck pace. It is truly refreshing to see the younger generations take such a keen interest in not only further developing the technology that exists today, but coming up with creative and unique solutions to issues they see around them.

Unless stated, opinions expressed in this article do not represent the views of Homeschool Singapore.