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Hong Kong Chapter
The home of the “Future Explore”
Reported by Paul Hodgson, Chapter Chair and Dany Cho, ExCom member
What a great time we live in! We live in a world surrounded by incredible technology that has magnified our range of potential experiences, enabling individuals to travel beyond the atmosphere as tourists with spacecrafts and rovers, provided they have the (financial) means to do so, of course. Yet, in light of these possibilities, we are facing rising cases of social isolation, misinformation, addiction, depression, and even war. The list goes on and could continue about how we lack the capability to explore unchartered territories due to modern dependencies, nevertheless, it is no intention to be a cynical here. There is no immediate solution – a cure for all, but we believe doing things in ways that involve discussion and action offer a way forward to begin addressing such issues. This article, we hope, is a catalyst to start this.
With the successful introduction of NASA’s Rotation Pulse Detonation Engine and Elon Musk’s Space X Starship proceeding at a steady pace, it seems as if we are on the brink of space travel and exploration. What we describe as “The Great Filter” has kept other species like the dinosaurs planet-bound, and we all know what happened to them. Some parallels can be drawn here, with mankind historically sticking to age-old traditions of brutality and violence, an image that appears to be straight from the Mesozoic Era. It’s also quite funny to think that coincidence or not, the solar system has rotated around our galaxy into almost the same place it was when the dinosaurs got annihilated, but we are not expecting any large incoming asteroids within this century so no clobbering for us in the near future. Thankfully though, we have recently successfully tested a deflection system for high-speed collisions already, and this is a comforting thought. Our only expectation is that the asteroid Bennu will slam into the earth in about 300 years’ time, and as a result, we do actually have more time to get things further developed.
Such technological development however, has been significant in terms of stress to our life support system. We have accelerated climate change, faced difficulty handling the social aspects of pandemics – as evidenced by the recent COVID pandemic, and these are only a few of many challenges. It took a while to ramp up action against the virus and the next pandemic that occurs will let us know how much we learnt from this experience. The information revolution has created an internet with heaps of conflicting data. This doesn’t help. Not only that, we lack the people who would be willing to get into a rocket ship and risk sailing off the edge of the universe in search of new places.
At this point, you must be asking, what is the catalyst then, and how does the IEEE factor into all of this? In 2006, a program of ROV workshops and competitions was started by Prof. Robin Bradbeer at the City University in Hong Kong. She headed a small team of university students and myself, to promote underwater engineering to primary, secondary, and university aged students. The program was very successful and continued to expand, even after Robin left Hong Kong to retire. The primary objective was to hold workshops teaching students how to build a pipe-frame locally designed ROV. This machine could be modified to compete in ROV competitions. The main target, in the early times, being the MATE International ROV competition held yearly in the USA.
It soon became apparent that this simple ROV building program had a hidden feature. It quickly identified those students who found their intelligence and abilities early. These students opened our “ROV in a Box” workshop packages and realized they could build anything with the array of bits and pieces the box contained. Our dilemma, at the time, was what to do with these students that would allow them to advance further. Initially, we pushed them to other competitions and similar demonstrations showing ability. We also advised them to try and do projects. Apart from this, the only other way was to try and get them into mentoring programs in the areas they were interested in. This was a far cry from a professional way the IEEE could recognize this potential.
In 2018, we realized that the number of “special” students the ROV workshop programme was uncovering had reached the point where a small IEEE conference could be organized for them to show off their work. Thus, the decision to run an IEEE Student conference was made. Paul’s position, at that time, was Vice-Chairman of the CT/OES Joint Chapter so he could arrange it. After what seemed an eternity, eighteen secondary school students worked on projects that would normally be seen at university level. The conference was scheduled for the 17th of November 2019 at Polytechnic University. As usual the Gods of Chaos ruled. The year 2019 was a time of civil unrest in Hong Kong. Riots, teargas, and sieges were occurring on a daily basis. On the 15th of November, two days before we were to start, trouble started around the Polytechnic University that led to a full siege with constant clashes between the students and police as day turned to night. We had to cancel the event. This program was not starting very well.
Finally, we held the Young Engineer’s Conference 2019 (YE-19) on the 13th of September, 2020, almost one year later. Eighteen projects, including the preparation of posters and written papers, were presented by each team for fifteen minutes, and it turned out better than we had expected. We had tapped into a hidden talent. Two more conferences followed; the YE-21 and YE-22. Each had more students and more projects. The program worked.
The students we find for the YE program are also the innovators the inner (undersea) and outer space program needs. Young minds who have found their intelligence early and strive to achieve and improve mankind in line with the IEEE theme – “Engineering for Humanity.”
The physical and virtual world shows engineers have been involved in all aspects of recent human development. There is still a lot to do though, and we are not out of the woods yet. Traditionally, IEEE has been focused on the accolades of great inventions and innovation. This is correct, but contemporary education establishes the basis of our capabilities during our school years, and this system of educating our young is based on a method that was developed during the industrial revolution some 300 years ago. Sure, it has come a long way, but the principle has remained the same. Given the massive amount of technology and information available today on the internet, many youngsters are self-learning to the point that they sometimes know way more about a topic than the person teaching them about it. Our children are learning about a lot more stuff than ever before, and this allows those who discover their intelligence to advance forward in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, the current school system usually cannot cater for them, particularly in schools with limited resources.
I have heard both teachers and students say that we are 50 years ahead of the times with this program. But one must ask themselves honestly, are humans truly at the forefront of everything when we have not even learnt that conflict and war campaigns are steps in the wrong direction? There must be a solution to our differences, using them to propel ourselves forward, not backward. Education must be the key to this.
Man has not returned to the surface of the moon for 50 years. Is the same type of procrastination happening with the way we educate our young? Perhaps the time has come for some adjustment of our education system, an adjustment catering for the rapid development of young human minds surrounded by the technology we have already developed.
While this change is being considered and (perhaps) implemented, the HK IEEE CTOES intends to concentrate on thickening the veneer we have put on top of the existing education system, allowing us to capture some of the fast growing wild grass that is punching through the roof of education. Working with them to allow these youngsters a chance of showing off the level they have reached through projects, fun activities and conferences, and giving them IEEE recognition of achievement as they succeed. This definitely helps their chances of getting into further education and gives them a better chance to realize their dreams. We encourage other IEEE chapters to jump on board and start something similar in their areas. After all, IEEE sets standards for the way technology should be taught in schools. How about we lead a little to show what we want.
The HK IEEE CTOES YE program is open to all secondary school students anywhere on the planet. Programme information can be retrieved from the www.ieeeye.com website. Our ROV activity can be seen at www.rov.hk .
Technical Talk on Remote and Autonomous Technologies Development for Marine Survey and Exploration and IEEE OES Membership Drives
Reported by Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, Vice Chair
The webinar, entitled “REMOTE AND AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGIES DEVELOPMENT FOR MARINE SURVEY AND EXPLORATION” was presented by Assoc. Prof. Dr Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, from the IIUM at Gombak, Malaysia, on 19 May, 2023, at 10.00 MYT.
Zulkifli bin Zainal Abidin, a roboticist, obtained his B.Eng Computer and Information Engineering from IIUM in 2003, MSc. and Ph.D from USM, Penang, in 2007 and 2013, respectively. He then joined the Mechatronics Engineering Department at IIUM, and has been a member of the faculty there ever since. He is actively engaged with industries and government agencies as a consultant and a subject expert. Among them are; PDRM, PROTON, MARA, Petronas, Petrosains, Temasek Engineering, Delloyd R&D, Jabil, Prostrain Technologies, MARii, HGIS, SIRIM, Altus Oil & Gas Malaysia, and many more. He is presently the director and co-founder of the Center for Unmanned Technologies (CUTe), a Competence Centre Programme under Industry@University by MITI and KPT. He has acquired a number of research projects and grants as a principal worth more than RM5 million, which is mainly from industry funding with more than 10-Research Agreements signed. He was awarded with the Chartered Engineer (C.Eng) status from the Engineering Council UK (IMarEST), a vice-chair for IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter and SAE International Malaysia as well. He has authored/reviewed as the editorial board member of publications in international and local refereed journals and conference proceedings. His research projects are mainly in the area of underwater, ground and space robotic platform development for fieldwork operations, new sensing devices and mechanisms, and intelligent control algorithms. Apart from academic activities, he is also actively involved in off-road motorsports as a trainer.
In the beginning of the presentation, he shared information about IEEE International and the developments of IEEE Malaysia, particularly the establishment of IEEE OES in Malaysia and its activities. Amongst the main topics covered was the vision, objectives, and focus of IEEE OES in Malaysia. Current activities and the benefits of being part of IEEE OES were also shared.
Then, he shared his experience in research and development related to remote and autonomous technologies for maritime survey and exploration.
Engineers and scientists must strive to meet the extremely tight design constraints imposed by the harsh conditions that both surface and underwater platforms have to face. Among these, the following are worth stressing:
1) High pressures and low temperatures related to extremely deep or harsh environments require suitable components and water-tight containers and equipment.
2) Underwater and surface communications mandate the use of acoustic devices that in challenging operational scenarios are plagued with intermittent communication losses and multi-path effects and exhibit reduced bandwidth and low reliability.
3) Long-range missions require that the vehicles be equipped with proper power supply systems (also relying on alternative technologies such as fuel cells, biological batteries, solar panels, etc.) and efficient energy management systems.
Towards the end of the presentation, he urged students to actively engage in any associations to gain knowledge related to professional societies and industries, particularly.
During the Q&A session, the students were particularly interested in gaining insights about TRL and how they can create cutting-edge technologies.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a scale used to assess the maturity and readiness of a technology or innovation for practical application. It is commonly used in research and development (R&D) projects, particularly in engineering and scientific fields. TRL provides a framework to evaluate and communicate the progress of a technology from its early stages of development to its deployment in real-world applications.
The TRL scale typically ranges from 1 to 9, with each level representing a specific stage of technology development:
- Basic Principles Observed: This is the lowest level, where scientific research is conducted to understand the basic principles and concepts behind a technology.
- Technology Concept Formulated: At this stage, the theoretical concept is developed, and initial experiments may be conducted to validate its feasibility.
- Proof of Concept: The technology’s basic functionality is demonstrated in a controlled laboratory environment.
- Technology Validated in Lab: The technology is further tested and validated under laboratory conditions to ensure its reliability and performance.
- Technology Validated in Relevant Environment: The technology is tested in a simulated or controlled environment that closely resembles real-world conditions.
- Technology Demonstrated in a Relevant Environment: The technology is demonstrated in an operational environment to showcase its effectiveness and potential applications.
- Technology Demonstrated in an Operational Environment: The technology is tested and validated in a real-world operational setting to assess its performance and functionality.
- Technology Complete and Qualified: The technology is fully developed, and all necessary qualifications, certifications, and regulatory approvals are obtained.
- Technology Ready for Deployment: The technology is deemed mature, reliable, and ready for widespread deployment and commercialization.
Understanding TRL is important for undergraduates as it helps them assess the stage of development of a technology they might be working on or researching. It provides a common language for discussing technology readiness, evaluating risks and challenges, and setting realistic expectations for the implementation of innovations in practical applications. TRL can also guide decision-making processes, funding allocation, and the transition of technologies from research to industry.
Excursion to Redang and Bidong Island
Reported by Ahmad Faisal Mohammad Ayob, Zool Hilmi Ismail, Mohd Ikhwan Hadi Yaacob and Zainah Md Zain
A team of five members from the IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter recently embarked on a short visit to explore the natural wonders and research facilities of Redang Island and Bidong Island. The team consisted of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahmad Faisal Mohammad Ayob, our host from UMT, Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Zool Hilmi Ismail from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Ikhwan Hadi Yaacob from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), and Dr. Zainah Md Zain from Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) and Mrs Syahirah Hanizam from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).
Their journey began on 28 May, 2023, with a boat ride from the mainland to Redang Island. Redang Island is known for its breathtaking beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life. The team arrived at Merang Jetty, where they departed for their exciting two-day, one-night trip. At 10:00 AM, the team boarded the boat and set off for Redang Island. The boat journey provided them with stunning views of the turquoise waters and lush landscapes. Their first day was filled with various outdoor activities and exploration of the island’s beauty.
The main agenda for the first day included an island hopping and snorkeling adventure. They visited several captivating locations, starting with Turtle Point in Teluk Dalam. This spot is famous for its abundance of sea turtles, allowing the team to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Next, they ventured to Little Maldives Redang, a picturesque spot with crystal-clear waters and stunning white sandy beaches reminiscent of the renowned Maldives. The team enjoyed snorkeling and were amazed by the vibrant marine life and colorful coral reefs.
Continuing their journey, they visited Pulau Paku, where they immersed themselves in the beauty of the island’s pristine beaches and lush greenery. They took leisurely walks, appreciating the serene surroundings and the soothing sounds of nature.
The final stop of the day was Nemo Point Redang, named after the famous clownfish character from Finding Nemo. The team had the opportunity to explore an underwater paradise and observe the captivating marine life that Redang Island is known for.
On 29 May, the team’s agenda focused on Seatru Chagar Hutang on Redang Island. They participated in a Seatru-related briefing, which provided valuable insights into sea turtle research, conservation, and rehabilitation efforts. They learned about the challenges faced by sea turtles and the importance of preserving their habitats.
After the briefing, the team departed from Redang Island to Pulau Bidong. They arrived at Pulau Bidong at 11:30 AM and received a briefing at the UMT Research Station. The briefing provided an overview of the research conducted on Bidong Island, emphasizing marine biodiversity, ecosystem dynamics, and sustainable management practices.
With a day filled with enriching experiences and knowledge, the team departed from Merang Jetty at 3:00 PM, carrying newfound knowledge and cherished memories of their journey. At 3:30 PM, they arrived back at Merang Jetty, concluding their remarkable trip to Redang Island and Bidong Island.
The trip offered a perfect blend of outdoor adventures, educational briefings, and opportunities to witness the beauty of marine life and conservation efforts. The team returned with a deeper understanding of the importance of preserving these precious ecosystems and a renewed commitment to contribute to their protection.