Alumni Linkage — OU People
Technology education may be all the rage nowadays but, even back in 2003, Jacky Yau already founded Robot Institute of Hong Kong. This represented his first foray into the technology frontier, teaching secondary and primary students how to build and programme robots. During the same year, he was studying in the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Primary) programme at the OUHK.
Kindling curiosity about popular science
Back in the days when he was a primary teacher, Jacky got to try his hand at robot construction kits. His interest was piqued and he began to realize the learning value of robotics. Eventually he made the decision to quit his stable teaching job and set up the Robot Institute, which – at the beginning – mainly ran interest classes at primary and secondary schools. Owing to limited manpower, Jacky had to carry six robot construction kits and two boxes of material all by himself, doing the rounds visiting schools from Monday through Saturday. ‘All the techniques for guiding group learning and for class management I had learnt at the OUHK came in handy. Practicum experience was particularly important. Supervisor’s comments after class observation also helped to hone my teaching skills.’
His one-man shows served to not only inspire school children but also anchor the Institute’s interest classes around scientific research. Just one year or so later, new programmes were offered to students through its newly-established teaching centre. Going from strength to strength ever since, the Institute now boasts a 20-member team led by Jacky and over 1,000 students each semester. In the meantime, Jacky has completed an MBA and a course about leadership and management in education, with a plan to pursue a doctoral degree in education at the OUHK.
Building his own brand of nurture for disadvantaged students
Through one and a half decades of development, like his robots, the Institute has made a series of perfect moves, including organization of ROBOFEST Hong Kong for three years in a row. This year saw the launch of the competition in Macau. Early this year, a team of award-winning students led by him scooped an impressive 18 awards in the World Championship held in the US.
Jacky has been encouraging students to participate in competitions to gain experience and broaden their horizons. ‘Pity that some of them have missed the exchange opportunity because they can’t afford the travelling expenses. I understand robotics programmes may be too expensive for low-income families. So last year, I set up the Children’s Technology Education Foundation to promote technology education to the community.’ In fact, shortly after the establishment of his Institute, he already noticed the exorbitant prices for robot construction kits. In a bid to develop high-quality teaching material and kits more affordable than foreign products, he has built his own brand ‘EDbotic’.
Knowledge of science and personal development
As pointed out by Jacky, from assembling the parts to writing programmes to drive robots, students need to apply their knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Given the Government’s increasing efforts to promote STEM education, many schools have incorporated robot assembly into their regular curriculum. To support technology education, he has been running training workshops for teachers as well as organizing seminars in collaboration with the Education Bureau to share his experience with academia.
Over the years, having guided schoolchildren to explore technology with interest, Jacky has come to believe there is an underlying meaning in the process: ‘Students have to do preparatory research work, use their problem-solving skills, and come up with their own methods to make the robots tick. The opportunity to cooperate with their teammates also facilitates their growth and development.’