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7 student makers beat the odds & are heading to Silicon Valley!

By Oktober 27, 2016No Comments


7 students of Teach For Malaysia Alumni have been selected to go to Silicon Valley in San Francisco – that’s 7 out of 33 of our country’s brightest young makers who participated in two accelerator labs organised by MDEC under their Digital Maker Global Exchange programme (DGMX).

* Why this is so amazing *

1. The 7 students attend two social enterprises founded and run by Teach For Malaysia Alumni – Arus dan Chumbaka Cyberjaya – which serve students from more challenging socioeconomic backgrounds (e.g. they go to high-need schools, or do not have as much access to opportunities because of their family circumstances or where they live).

2. Out of the total 10 students who are being sent to Silicon Valley, 3 are from two top-performing schools in Malaysia.

We are so proud of them for beating the odds, and proving that students have the power to change their own lives. Needless to say, their teachers are super proud of them too! They share their stories, and how some of them beat the odds.

ArusPhoto via Arus: Gayatri (second from left) and Badrul (third from left) have been selected to go to Silicon Valley.  

On Arus’ Facebook page:
“2 of Arus students are going to Silicon Valley this coming December!!

Over the last 4 days, 6 of Arus’ students were selected together with 27 other young inventors to go through the Digital Maker Exchange Challenge organised by MDEC. They came with their inventions and were taught how to identify their market and prepare to pitch to a panel of judges. The judges were selected from companies looking for young interns to expose them to the work in various different industries.

We are so proud of how far our kids have come with their inventions and pitching skills. To Subaasini, Gayatri, Badrul, Althaf, Zhi Hang and Kia Huat, all 6 of you have done so well and have reflected Arus’ core values in the best way possible. You are all an inspiration to your Arus teachers, peers and juniors!”

Alina Amir, 2013 Alumna & Co-founder of Arus: 
“I’ve always wanted my kids to see the world. I can’t remember how many classroom hours were spent sharing my travel experiences with them, hoping they’ll be inspired to one day want to explore beyond their comfort zone.

There are no words to describe how proud I am of my Arus kids today for always going above and beyond with every challenge we throw at them.

To Subaasini, one of the most reflective, deep 16-year-old thinkers I know, who answered my question ‘Why do you think you could invent in 24 hours this time around? What changed?’ with ‘It’s like the old man who cannot jump. The moment you throw firecrackers at him, he has no choice but to jump. That’s exactly what happened to me. I had to prove myself.’ Your positive thinking is refreshing. I overheard her say to her friends who did not make the Top 10, ‘You have to be happy! Our friends are going! We must be proud of them! They will represent us!’

To Gayatri, the most hardworking student I know, who does well in everything she chooses to do because of the amount of effort she puts in, one of the cleverest students her age, congratulations on being selected to go to Silicon Valley! I have never doubted your ability to achieve anything you put your mind to. Your confidence and perseverance is beyond what I could ever muster when I was your age.

To Badrul, the boy who has changed so much since I first met him, the one who one time got angry at me and sent in a blank exam paper for Sejarah (the subject I taught him) as a sign of protest, the one who insisted he cannot speak in front of people, is now the same boy who discusses ideas with me in English, who tries extra hard when perfecting his projects, who has pitched his inventions in front of hundreds of people. I hope the trip to Silicon Valley in December will inspire you to do more!

To Althaf, the one who always tries to make me smile no matter what, who loves to make others laugh, who finds a friend everywhere he goes, who tries hard to constantly want to improve himself, I have never seen you work so hard on a project and a pitch before. I am so happy that you decided to fight till the end. I know you have it in you to go further.

To Zhi Hang, one of the most charismatic young leaders, the one who could get any crowd’s attention with his stories, the one who has big, grand noble plans for himself and his country, I am so proud of you and for winning the ‘Buddy’ award for always being willing to help others in the competition, no matter who they were. You were one of the students who came up with the ideas for ISW and that plays a big role on how far the product has come. But as the true leader and inventor that you are, I am most proud of how you handled this competition from the beginning till the end.

To Kia Huat, the one who has amazed me time and time again with what he is able to do, who never gives up even when the going gets tough, the one who has improved so much since I first met him 4 years ago, the big brother to everyone, I get teary-eyed every time I see you speak in front of a crowd today, because of how amazing you’ve become, and also because I know the journey you’ve been through to get to where you are today.

I am the luckiest teacher to have you bunch as my kids. Love, Teacher Alina.”

Felicia Yoon, 2013 Alumna & Co-founder of Arus: 
“A few months ago, Alina and I had the pleasure to represent Arus in Silicon Valley.. now, in December, two of our kids will get the chance to pitch their project in Silicon Valley! Amazing! So proud of all 6 of them!! 😭😭

Chumbaka 1Photo via Nigel Sim: Shi Qi (second from left), Min Han (third from left), Kok Wei (third from right), Guan (second from right) have been selected to go to Silicon Valley.  

Nigel Sim, 2014 Alumnus & Co-founder of Chumbaka Cyberjaya: 
“Meet my amazing students! 4 of them just won themselves a trip to Silicon Valley under MDEC’s Digital Maker Global Exhange programme.

I still remember how they were when I first met them two years ago. They were your typical 13-year-old kids. Young and bright. But life for them was a mundane cycle of school, tuition, homework and exams. Deep down inside I knew that they deserved much better and could do more.…. and I was right.

Ever since their first outing out of their comfort zone, they got addicted. Addicted to learning (and winning of course!). Yes, I pushed them really hard and at times they pushed back. Yes, they stuttered a lot when they first tried to speak English in front of people but they kept trying and never once did they give up.

Fast forward to today, their hard work paid off and are now recognised among the country’s top 10 makers!

Their journey is really an inspirational one and has become the talk of the town (like literally). I really hope they continue to inspire others that if you put your heart and soul into something, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.

My students told me that the whole kampung knows that they are going to the United States now! Everywhere they go people are talking about them! It’s crazy to see how they managed to inject some sense of possibility into the greater community with their journey! — feeling crazy.”

(Also, Nigel really wanted to share this story about one of the students, Guan.) [UPDATED]

“I named Guan ‘Danny’ after a Professor of Economics in LSE, Prof Danny Quah.

When I first met Danny, he was just your average 14-year-old boy. Initially when I started introducing coding and making to my students, he was not selected to be part of the team as I did not teach him and hence did not know him well.

But I would always see him hanging around when his friends were doing their projects. He told me he was bored at home and just wanted to help out. It was then I decided to take him on board the team.

Danny is not exactly the brightest kid in the team but he is a doer. And he always has this positive and can-do vibe even when things just aren’t working. I still remember the night before a competition last year in Penang, his project was still not working. His teammates were on the verge of giving up and one was almost in tears already but Danny was the only one trying relentlessly to fix it together with me. Throughout the process he kept telling me that we will make it work one way or another and he was right, we got it working and their team went on to win 3rd place the next day. That was when I discovered that something special about him.

Just recently, he was selected to join MDEC’s Digital Maker Global Exchange. Initially, he was “reluctant” to join as he said he would ‘screw up’ his PT3 exams if he did so. Another teacher from the school had to call his parents to get their blessings.

During the first Accelerator Lab, Danny found himself in a situation out of his comfort zone. For the first time he was separated from his teammates and was placed on the spot by having to become the leader of the group. Danny is a good follower. But all this while he never got the chance to lead as he was always overshadowed by his team. After the lab, he told me with a proud look on his face, ‘It felt good to be the leader and to give instructions to others on what to do!’

The second lab was held two weeks later and the outcome of this would determine whether or not he would get to go to the States. Obviously, he was under a tremendous amount of stress (from his teammates, himself and ME!). He struggled a lot to internalise his pitch for the first three days, often forgetting his lines and having to refer to his written script.

But on the last day, I don’t know what happened to him, it was like he became a totally different person. He presented confidently, with expressions and full of drama. Even he himself was surprised by his ability. He knew he did well but was still not confident that he would win.

When the results were announced, Danny was in shock when he heard his name. His friends told me he had tears in his eyes but he denied he was crying. So much for machoness.

Of all of my students who will be going to the United States, I am most proud of him as I can see how much he wanted this and how hard he worked for it. Of course, I ‘scolded’ him the most also 😂

Last night, his mum called me to thank me and told me that this is better than winning a lottery ticket! She said it’s very seldom that teachers believe in her son and indeed it was that trust that made the difference.“

Chumbaka 2Photo via Chong Zhi Xiong: Dakshayanie (right) has been selected to go to Silicon Valley.

Chong Zhi Xiong, 2014 Alumnus & Co-founder of Chumbaka Cyberjaya: 
“I still remember the first day I met Dakshayanie, coming into my robotic class, begging to be a part of the team, but I just left her there with Python on Codecademy. The following week she came back and showed me her work on JavaScript.

She is certainly my reason to initiate Maker_Ed and my motivation to turn it into Chumbaka Cyberjaya.

Fast forward 2 years now, she just went through the Digital Maker Exchange Challenge organised by MDEC, with 32 other top young inventors in the country. And she is going to Silicon Valley, San Francisco this December!

Imma proud ‘father’!”

On Chumbaka Cyberjaya’s Facebook page:
“We are proud to announce that 5 of our Chumbaka kids just won themselves the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Silicon Valley!

They were selected from 33 of our country’s brightest young makers after participating in two accelerator labs organised by MDEC under their Digital Maker Global Exchange programme.

These students have been with us since Day One. It is amazing to see how much they have grown over the past two years and this is exactly the reason why we do what we do every day. — feeling excited.


Silicon Valley, here they come!

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