“Arus simply can be said as one of my most favourite places that I would spend my whole day at, without feeling boring.” Subashini (Maker Academy batch 2015 alumni) enjoy learning how technology is integrated into our daily life. She found herself getting interested in fancy science and eye-opening technologies when she was going through the lessons in Maker Academy. Enjoying the challenges given during the lesson, she especially thrived when she did not give up easily and was able to solve the challenging assignments. When people asked if Arus experience is useful for her, she proudly says that the knowledge she gained in Arus is helping her to cope with her current diploma in information technology. She said, “knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference and Arus experience is making a difference in my life”.
Maker Academy is the first programme in Arus. Since the year 2015, it has been our flagship programme, serving 108 underprivileged students from Alma community in Penang. We envision our students to be empathetic, proactive, creative and curious where they fall in love with learning and make learning a lifelong agenda. On the 1st of May 2019, it marked the graduation of the 5th batch of students completing Maker Academy Semester 1 where they learnt Arduino and Scratch programming skills to create their final project prototypes. Students were further challenged to present their first-ever TED-Ed speech in front of teachers, family members, friends and all visitors of the day. Some students broke through their inner fears while some needed more time for it. What is important here is we emphasise growth mindsets among the students. Rather than judging events as either positive or negative, we want our students to simply experience them, celebrate them and learn from them.
Zhi Hang (Maker Academy batch 2015 alumni) shared that even he is still confused that he presented a 3 minutes speech in front of so many people during graduation day. To him, it was hard to believe that a person can transform from not knowing how to speak a full sentence in English to someone who can present his passion in front of 30 people in English, all in just three months. From then on, he was able to represent his school for public speaking competitions for years. The students we serve here seldom or rarely spoke English in their daily lives. Being challenged to speak English makes Kia Huat (Maker Academy batch 2015 alumni) believe that he now has a more positive mindset to embrace challenges in life.
On the other hand, Ke Xin (Maker Academy batch 2017 alumni) was one of the students who were not satisfied with their performance during semester one. She was extremely disappointed in herself when she couldn’t get a prize during the graduation ceremony. Having low self-confidence, she started to think that maybe she is not suitable to learn in Arus. She wanted to quit, yet she hesitated. Seeing semester two as a new beginning, she decided to give herself another chance. She pushed herself to be more daring to try new things. Pairing courage with curiosity, she was awarded the best student of the year at the year-end exhibition. She learnt that she could not afford the luxury of negative thoughts. At times, especially when things get tough, negative thoughts will still visit her but now, she is clear that as long as she never gives up, she will gain something no matter what the result will be. She is now able to tell other students to believe in themselves, don’t run away when you face a challenge, just face it and solve it!
It was a joyful scene to see alumni from every batch come together to celebrate their juniors’ successes on the graduation day. Shi Ying also shared that she is proud of her progress with Arus and wanted to tell the world that she had done a good job. From a timid and unconfident girl, she now feels that she had become braver in facing challenges, a little bit more confident dealing with stress and solving problems. Following Ke Xin’s steps, Shi Ying chose to fight instead of flight.
In semester two, students are exposed to more advanced Arduino programming skills, woodworking skills, prototype making skills and many more skills that are needed for them to create higher quality projects that solve real-world problems. Khai Boon (Maker Academy batch 2017 alumni) shared that he never thought that he will have the passion to create something that can help others in need. Going through the Design Thinking processes where he and his team went all out to a shopping mall to interview the public on the problems they face on the road, they then analysed the data collected and learnt to define what is the real problem faced by the public. They found out that drivers need a way to make good use of their time during the traffic jam. Surprisingly, they don’t mind spending time in the traffic jam. He and his team then created a car prototype that will move automatically during traffic jam by just pressing a switch so that drivers can use their time more meaningfully during the traffic jam. They joined several competitions with this project where they presented their findings, demonstrated their prototypes and defended their solution. Receiving feedback from the public taught them not to be afraid of rejections but take them as redirection for improvement. *
More often than not, students come to teachers seeking advice for questions about their lives and how to work well with others in a team. Students are always put into teams where they will need to learn how to delegate tasks, communicate with each other and be a leader to lead the team. Things got tough at Zhi Hang’s team when no one in the team had an idea on what to do and no one was willing to take the lead. Being disappointed and frustrated, Zhi Hang threw a tantrum in the middle of a discussion and walked away. After confronting a teacher, the teacher suggested him to step up and be the leader that the team needed. He thought that it made sense and he was able to do that. Hence, he calmed himself down, went back to the discussion and started leading his team to complete the project. Although his team did not win in the competition, the experience made him realise how important a leader can be. Sai Tatt (Maker Academy batch 2017 alumni) also said that the biggest lesson he learnt from his Arus experience is when he was the leader in a competition. Going through last-minute work with poor task delegation, he learnt that to lead others, he first needs to lead himself to do the tasks that he has to do so that the team can achieve the goals that they want to achieve.
Joining Maker Academy unlocks a lot more opportunities for the students where they get to join national events that open their eyes and create meaningful memories with friends from all around Malaysia. The diverse experiences motivate them further to pursue endless possibilities open to them. Chia Ching (Maker Academy batch 2016 alumni) shared that he found his passion during his maker journey learning about technology and life. He is now working on a project about clogged drains and wishes to make his project a reality to free citizens in Malaysia from sudden floods and poor drainage system.
Zhi Hang again shared that what Arus taught him the most is not about programming skills or making things, it is the spirit to dare to dream. He said, “Without a spiritual dream that keeps pushing you ahead, you will not be able to keep yourself motivated.” When he first joined Arus, he saw the hopes of four young individuals who were willing to teach him and his friends when other teachers in the school kept on discriminating against them. These four young adults did not give up on them. Instead, they kept pushing Zhi Hang and friends to achieve their dreams. Zhi Hang remembered vividly that he was told: “One day, you will be one of the most successful people that can help to change the country.” This sentence was like a magical spell that kept him motivated all these years, dreaming to be able to join the force to make Malaysia a better place to live in.
The maker journey doesn’t end when they graduate from Maker Academy but has just started when they officially become the alumni, to first help themselves and later to serve others in the community.
Click at the following links to watch Maker Academy video montage