This week we caught up with Middle School Science teachers and robotics/technology experts Matthew Durham and Matthew Sheflin, especially since ISKL hosted its first-ever Malaysian National Vex IQ Robotics Championships.
Both hailing from the US, the two teachers and are an indispensable part of our Middle Science faculty, that has helped spearhead the Robotics program.
“Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, inspires me because he takes bold risks, yet has a clear vision and purpose. And most of all, he believes in moving his companies forward using cutting edge technology – I find him truly inspirational.
‘And it is no surprise that in my free time, I enjoy building, creating, designing and playing around with electronics, robotics, computers, programming – as well as anything to do with microcontrollers and 3D printing.
“This year marks my 5th working at ISKL – where I teach Middle School (MS) Science, primarily in robotics and design technology.
‘And we recently hosted the inaugural Malaysian National Robotics Championship with 16 teams from around Malaysia, as part of an international robotics organization called the Vex Robotics Competition/Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, accompanied with more than 20,000 teams from over 50 countries that take place in over 1,700 competitions worldwide.
‘The Robotics program is an After School Activity (ASA) under MS, and we also have a similar program with High School (HS), which included us attending the Formosa Vex IQ Tower Takeover Competition in Taipei last semester.
‘This all started when I received an Inspiration Fund grant from the PTA to fund a lot of the (robotic) equipment as I wanted to start building this from the ground up, and a couple of years ago, I again applied for another grant and through that, the MS Robotics program was born!
‘We have about 25 MS students, although with the interest we have garnered, we could easily double that number. I hope more students will join us eventually.”
What does Be All You Are mean to you?
“To live each day to the fullest and to be as good as I can be that day, and to try and be better the next”.
‘In robotics, students are given design challenges in which they have to develop programs.
‘As they start getting more advanced in their technique, they have to continue building their robots to solve these challenges.
‘The students compete, play, and in the end, they make a lot of mistakes which they overcome where there is no one correct answer, which propels the students to come up with different solutions.
‘This is why in the Grade 8 science program, we try to incorporate engineering design, which involves problem-solving as much as we can – where students are given a problem with specific parameters.
‘One fun example of how we approach this is with the Egg Drop experiment, which is part of our “Forces in Motion” unit, where we explore forces and energy transfer.
‘This is done from the first floor onto a semi-soft surface, where they can only use toothpicks and loops to design a solution to prevent the forces from going into the eggshell.
‘It always inspires me when I can connect with the students in the best way that I can each day – it is never the same, and there are always areas to improve on and I can’t imagine that I would ever get bored or feel that teaching is monotonous because of the variety of challenges and experiences that the students bring every day to me”.
What Does Be All you Mean to you?
‘It means paying attention to who you are emotionally – to what you need and what makes you happy.”