Friday, September 21, 2007

“Chemsha bongo ……Engineering Challenges” 2nd Update

Activity 2

Location: Kamukunji Secondary School

Activity: Chemsha Bongo

Date: Thursday 20th September, 2007

This was our first session with Kamukunji Secondary School but the second session overall of "Chemsha Bongo....Engineering challenges” We arrived as scheduled at 3:30 pm to be greeted by the Deputy headmistress who was eagerly awaiting our arrival. Due to the fact that the third and fourth formers were having a meeting with their teachers, we were content working with the availed second formers who were assembled into a classroom. There was a total of about 30 students altogether since some of them had already left for home.

The Cosmos Education Kenya volunteers in attendance were: Lizbeth Mate, Bridgit Muasa, Evalyn Mwihia, Carol Muli and Kevin Kinyua. We introduced Cosmos Education and ourselves to the students as we had never worked with that group before. They were very enthusiastic to know what we were to do with them for that one-hour session we were there. We explained to them that we will be having six sessions with them that term and three of them would be “chemsha bongo” activities while the other three would be mentorship talks.

When all this was said and done, we jumped right in to divide the students into two groups. One of the groups chose the name “Macadiff” where as the other chose the name “ODM”.

The first activity was the “Connect the dots” brain teaser whereby the students were to join a series of nine dots using only four straight lines. The groups each chose a representative who would take the challenge on the blackboard while the rest of the group tried to figure it out on paper where they were seated. Several attempts were made by the students but to no avail. Many came close but not enough to get it. This activity was aimed at assisting the students to think far and wide and also to think outside the box.

Foreground: Bridgit explaining the challenge to the students
Background: students attempting the challenge in groups

The second activity was the “Towers of Hanoi” activity. We first explained the concept of exponentials. We then asked the students to guess the least number of moves it would take to move three disks with varying sizes from the smallest to the largest to a different spot using only three open spaces and without placing a larger disc on top of a smaller disc or moving more than one disc at a time. Guesses made included: 2, 8, 10 and 7. A number of attempts were made and the students arrived at the number 7 as the least number of moves to make. We explained that the activity used the algorithm 2n-1 where n represented the number of discs. We therefore calculated the least number of moves it would take to move four discs with the same rules to follow and we came up with 24-1 = 15 moves. This activity was aimed at teaching the students about exponentials. The first group, “ODM” won both the 3 and 4 disc challenge.

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Towers of Hanoi Challenge

We headed outside the classroom for the final activity which was the “Balancing act” challenge whereby the students were to empty some water from a plastic cup that was suspended in mid air by 6 strings to which 6 group representatives held on to. The challenge was that, if the strings were tugged at, the plastic cup would drop and if any of the handlers was to shake, water would spill off the cup and the group would be penalized for each drop of water spilt. This activity was aimed at testing the students’ team work spirit, leadership skills, strategy methods and efficient use of time. The students showed a good sense of teamwork and one of the groups actually managed to empty the cup more than half way.

With the last activity done, we headed back to the classroom to wind up the session. We tested the students’ memory by asking them to repeat the volunteers’ names and also to recap on what they learnt from the activities done on that day. The students were very excited to hear that we would be back the next week for another session.

After the students were dismissed for the day, we headed back to the office where we discussed the session in detail, noting all that went well and areas of improvement.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

“Chemsha bongo ……Engineering Challenges” 1st Update

“Chemsha bongo ……Engineering Challenges” Update

Location: St Johns High school.

Activity: Chemsha Bongo

Date: 18th September, 2007

This was the first session of the “Chemsha Bongo” Engineering challenges. The session was at St Johns high School and was done with the forms three and four students.

The session was attended by seven Cosmos education volunteers, Bridgit Syombua, Vice president CEK, Evalyn Mwihia- Secretary CEK, Isaac Musyoka- Treasurer CEK, Benard Kariuki, Sylvia Indagasi, Caroline Muli and Kevin Kinyua.

We started off by introducing the “Chemsha Bongo” Engineering challenges as a session that encourages critical thinking and the power of team work. We then gave the schedule for the challenges for the whole semester and our team together with the students set the expectations for the each session and overall expectations.

Top on the list from the students was that they expected to learn new things and strengthen their team work ability. As cosmos education our expectations were that we hoped to empower the students to be able to think critically and learn to build on each others abilities.

After the brief introduction, we divided the students into four groups; we then started off with the first challenge, Towers of Hanoi which is a simple challenge that encourages the use of logic. In this challenge the students were given 3 pieces of paper all of different sizes which acted as the disks and 3 pencils which represented the towers. They were then to move all 3 disks from one tower to another, moving only one disk at a time and only placing a smaller disk on top of a larger one.
Each group then chose a representative to take on the challenge. The first group to complete successfully was then named the winner. In this first challenge there was a tie with 2 groups finishing at the same time. To find a winner, a fourth disk was added and the challenge repeated, this time Gor Mahia, one of the groups, emerged the winner
One of the volunteers explaining the rules of the 2nd challenge
The second challenge was a test of team work, the students were given a plastic cup filled with water and suspended by 6 strings tied to a rubber band placed around the cup. The students were only allowed to hold the string at the tip and they were to pour the water into a second cup placed inside a circle drawn on the floor. The cup holding the water was not to move out of the circle. The first team to complete the challenge with the least spills was declared the winner.
One of the groups attempting to empty the cup

The last brain teaser of the day was a mathematical problem which also employed critical thinking

The session was concluded with the winning team being announced and an analysis of the lessons for the day and a review of how best the students would have accomplished these challenges.
Analysis of the session with 2 of the students