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From Spaghetti Towers to Lego Houses: Cross-Cultural Insights from a STEM/STEAM Workshop
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The NTNU College of Technology and Engineering, in collaboration with the Department of Design at Kyushu University (KU) in Japan, jointly organized a STEM/STEAM collaborative design workshop from March 5 to March 8. This four-day event culminated in a presentation of outcomes on its final day. Distinguished participants included Professor Leon Loh, Professor Shimomura Moe, and Professor Inamura Tokushu from KU's Department of Design, as well as Dean Ching-Min Cheng, Director Yu-Liang Ting, and Professor Kuen-Yi Lin from NTNU's College of Technology and Engineering. Additionally, students from KU's College of Design International Program and NTNU's Department of Technology Application and Human Resource Development (TAHRD), Department of Graphic Arts and Communication, and Department of East Asian Studies contributed to the workshop's activities.

The workshop aimed to develop innovative STEM/STEAM learning experiences specifically designed for primary and secondary school students. It further aimed to strengthen the collaborative relationship between KU and NTNU, offer English Medium Instruction (EMI) academic exchange opportunities for students from both universities, and facilitate the participation of students from KU's College of Design International Program in short-term educational projects.

STEM education, which integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is enhanced by the inclusion of Art, transitioning to STEAM education. This approach emphasizes critical thinking, the application of interdisciplinary knowledge and skills, and real-world problem-solving. Its goal is to cultivate self-motivation and a passion for learning among students.

During the presentation of results from this educational initiative, esteemed participants including Professor Leon from Japan, Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Chih-Jung Ku from the NTNU Resource Center for English Medium Instruction (EMI), and doctoral candidate Yu-Chen Hsieh from the Department of Science and Technology provided evaluations and feedback on student projects.

The first group presented a project designed for high school students, emphasizing the relevance of mathematics in everyday life and offering opportunities for students to investigate various applications. The curriculum covered subjects such as mathematics, physics, analysis and evaluation, and digital drawing. A notable activity was the 'Marshmallow Challenge,' in which students were tasked with building the tallest tower possible using 20 strands of raw spaghetti pasta and a limited selection of materials within a specific time limit. This exercise aimed to convey physics and mathematics concepts while encouraging students to improve their construction techniques.

The second group focused their educational efforts on junior high school students, with a curriculum themed around 'Architecture.' They utilized Minecraft Education as a teaching tool, emphasizing the learning process rather than the final product. The objective was to enhance learning through gamification, motivating students to engage deeply with the content and potentially exceed their teachers' expectations with their projects. Professor Leon Loh suggested incorporating game elements such as monster sieges to enhance the learning experience, noting that the choice of materials in the game, such as the type of doors used, could influence outcomes. For example, wooden doors are susceptible to destruction by zombies, whereas copper doors are not. This strategy aimed to spark discussions among students and promote a more profound understanding of architectural principles.

The third group directed their initiatives towards junior high school students, with the objective of highlighting the significance of learning mathematics in an enjoyable manner, specifically through the use of Lego blocks for house construction. Their approach sought to simplify teaching methods to enhance students' confidence in their mathematical skills. The presenters highlighted that mathematics, essential for the development of logical thinking and practical applications, can be presented in a less intimidating and more engaging manner through the use of games, puzzles, and Lego blocks, as opposed to relying exclusively on traditional textbook methods.

Following the presentation of outcomes, Professor Leon Loh presented certificates to participants from both Kyushu University and the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). He encouraged attendees to discuss their impressions of the program, extending beyond the academic experiences. Educators and students from both universities noted that, despite cultural differences, the group discussions on education were fruitful, providing valuable insights. They expressed hope that the ongoing collaboration between the two universities would continue to support similar educational exchanges in the future.

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