A group of engineers and scientists from University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong and Dagon University in Yangon, Myanmar embarked on a cross-country and cross-disciplinary experiential learning project to work on one of the major environmental sustainability issues of the 21st century – wastewater treatment.
In this reported pilot programme, 16 engineering students from University of Hong Kong travelled to Myanmar for a weeklong programme where they worked with 40 students from Dagon University to study wastewater quality at Yangon, Myanmar. This project has enriched students’ understanding on the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene as keys to national development. They also experienced first-hand how engineering and science professionals can work together in developing solutions with real-world impact in wastewater treatment. Students from both universities collaborated in teams to design, develop, and deploy an experiment to examine the wastewater condition in Myanmar. Engineering students took the lead on the development of technologies (e.g. implementation of Arduino-based remote data sensing and cloud-based database) to measure and report the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) in wastewater samples, which is commonly used as an indicator of the degree of organic pollution of wastewater. Science students took the lead on the wastewater sample collections, the experimental design and the reporting of the results beyond the project time frame.
Feature story - The Thoughtful Stitching
Written by Vienne Lin
“Teachers have no longer been a source of knowledge. They are facilitators. They need to help students learn more than the teachers actually know,” Dr. C. K. Chui said matter-of-factly.
Dedicated to a variety of internationalisation projects, Dr. C. K. Chui, one of the CoP – ITL’s co-leaders, has undertaken a cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary and cross-border experiential learning project on waterwaste treatment. As a departure from the traditional engineering curriculum which attaches much weight to technical knowledge, this project aims to provide students at HKU with opportunities to develop hands-on experience with real-world impact and to sharpen individual professional skills, including lifelong learning skills and teamwork skills for global citizenship. Available for students within the Faculty of Engineering, this project is partnered with the Faculty of Science at the Dagon University (DU), Myanmar.
Diversity as Challenge and Opportunity
Challenging as it is, a group of young future engineers mixed with backgrounds, be they Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering or Environmental Engineering, comes together to solidify their own disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning and to help their local and overseas peers realise their potential to absorb information through the application of knowledge exchange workshops. Students were cleanly divided into groups: two HKU engineering students were paired up with five to six DU science students on site. Such meticulous grouping in effect smoothed over differences and offered a culturally and disciplinarily rich interchange to students of both sides. All students have braved smelly fields and farms to collect agricultural, industrial and underground waterwaste samples. Teamwork prevailed!
Learning as Lifework
Lifelong learning skills can come in handy for future endeavours in life beyond school. According to a survey of the project, an overwhelming majority of students agreed that their lifelong learning skills were enhanced. Three salient skills were mentioned in particular. Time management speaks for itself. Although students were snowed under various deadlines, such as preparing run-downs, drafts, presentations, they were able to design and develop an efficient study plan under tight time constraints. Second comes effective study skills. Students have learnt how to find a right expert and ask a right question to advance their learning goals. The third goes to negotiation skills. In a diverse team, students has come to understand that each individual has a role to play, fulfilling separate but complementary needs.
Environmental sustainability as one key global issue was chosen as a site of investigation. To solve a problem, students have to know what the problem is. Students were proud of themselves who did not just sit comfortably in classroom, but capitalised on such experiential learning to improve lives of the citizens. Students were also able to identify other urban problems, such as lack of clean food and heavy traffic jams, facing Myanmar.
Interdisciplinary teaching team
This pilot project was started in September 2016 initiated by the engineering faculty at the University of Hong Kong.
Teachers from various departments worked together to design an experiential learning programme for students to work on one of the major environmental sustainability issues of the 21st century – wastewater treatment.
Student participants (Interdisciplinary in Engineering)
A group of knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic undergraduate students from various disciplines of HKU Engineering formed a pilot team to exchange Engineering knowledge with Science students in the Dagon University.
We aim to initiate long-term collaborations with universities in Myanmar, offering wider opportunities for HKU students to enrich their overseas learning experience.