Stem 01 Earthquake Simulator Competition Apply What You Have Learned To The Real World

Team 1 members Low Yi En (from left), Francis Kasaila and Calvin Soo Shui Zhen nervously observe their model structure being measured on the Earthquake Stimulator to test how firm it could withstand the tremors.  SoE lecturer and competition facilitator Mr Muneswaran a/l Suthaskumar (2nd left) clearing doubts raised by the participants. 
Winning teams displaying their models, togetherwith the Head of School and the panel of judges.  
Earthquake has been one of the teething problems for many countries. With the changing landscape of Mother Nature, even Malaysia has not been spared, as evidenced by the Sabah earthquake in 2015. In view of this, the School of Engineering at KDU University College recently put forth a challenge to its Foundation in Engineering students through the STEM 101 Earthquake Simulator competition, where participants were tasked to design, build and test their structures on a scale to prove how firm it could withstand earthquake tremors.

This inaugural competition, with STEM being an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, was held not only to impart the above fundamental knowledge of engineering, but also to train students to think creatively of design methods for structure to withstand the simulated earthquake, based on the concept of physics.  “This competition serves as a platform to introduce STEM education to our foundation students. STEM integrates the four disciplines into cohesive learning and applies it based on real-world application,” explained Associate Professor Ir. Dr Matthew Teow Yok Wooi, Head of the School of Engineering (SoE) at KDU University College.

Through this, students were able to take their learning beyond the classroom and apply what they have learnt first-hand. The 7-hour competition provided an opportunity for the students to further explore and exploit how the engineering knowledge could be applied in the real world and had fun at the same time.

Elaborating further, Teow said, “This event also serves as a networking platform where the students are able to communicate with their course mates, thus developing their communication skills. The School expects each and every participant to think beyond the box, as they need to exhibit creative solution, a good engineering design without omitting aesthetic aspects and also portray a good project management.”

Participants were divided into groups of three, and were given free reigns to choose the materials needed for their structure. However, the materials were restricted to what was provided by the organiser, and the groups were limited to a set number of each item. The materials included items such as ice cream sticks, straws, manila cards, plastic cups and cello tapes. On top of that, each group were given a set of electronic devices which consists of 9 V batteries, mercury switch, buzzer, LED and resistors.

The groups took to their brain-storming sessions with full of excitement, as they began to tap vigorously on their scientific calculators and come up with measurements, with some pondering on the feasibility of their proposed design, while some began to sketch what they had in mind.

Without any prior practice or training, the event saw the groups enthusiastically applying what they had learnt so far and trying to solve the given problem right on the spot – building a model structure with measurement of 60 x 35 x 35 cm, with an alarm system assembled by electronic devices in the midst of it. Finally, models built by each team were placed onto the Earthquake Simulator and tested with simulated tremors along two perpendicular directions.

The panel of judges, comprised of SoE lecturers, were led by Head Judge Dr Veronica Lestari Jauw, together with Dr Ha Tshui Hung, Associate Professor Ir. Dr Aravinthan Arumugam and Ir. Cheang Kok Meng. Marks were given according to the height, base area, survival and engineering or aesthetic design of the buildings and structures.

Eventually, Team 1 emerged as Overall Champion and the winner of the Aesthetic Design Award. The group comprised of Low Yi En, whose contribution of utilising ice-cream sticks helped strengthen their winning structure, Calvin Soo Shui Zhen and Francis Kasaila. Soo quipped, “We thoroughly enjoyed this! The competition is all about translating our theoretical knowledge to practical application and we had a lot of fun through this hands-on learning.”

Three other awards were also up for grabs - won by the following teams: Engineering Design Award – Team 2 (Haran A/L Murali, Muhamad Fadhl Bin Masri); Creative Solution Award – Team 3 (Tan Khai Jern, Darshan A/L Ramesan, Pravin A/L Rajendran); Project Management Award – Team 5 (Thanesh A/L Gunaselan, Mehervan Singh, Ahmad Syahmi Naqiuddin Bin Mohamad).