In the summer of 2018, a group of over 130 students and staff from the Faculty of Construction and Environment (FCE) engaged in various community service projects at the Ebenezer School for the Visual Impaired. While most of them were Higher Diploma (HD) students from the Department of Building and Real Estate (BRE) and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) who were undergoing part of their training provided by PolyU’s Industrial Centre at the Ebenezer School, there were also BSc/BEng students from the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics (LSGI) and the Faculty of Engineering (FENG). Together, they learnt to build 6 shelters, revamp the assembly hall and renovate the Old People’s Home. To effectively implement the projects, students assumed one of various roles that are commonly found in real life construction projects, such as project manager, site engineer, quantity surveyor, BIM engineer, safety officer etc. With the help of advanced technologies and equipment, students produced the construction drawings using Autodesk Revits and planned the schedule for the construction project in Microsoft project. Not only were they exposed to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the process, students also learnt about the importance of commitment, teamwork and empathy.

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Students’ learning to build the shelters step by step in teams

 

For their efforts and dedication, 8 of the FCE students were selected for Prize Awards from the Rotary Club of Wanchai, which they received in a sharing session organized by the Ebenezer School at its campus on 5 September 2018. After welcoming speeches from Dr Alice Yuk, CEO of Ebenezer School, and Prof. Xiaoli Ding, Associate Dean (Partnership), students from the Ebenezer School and PolyU took turns expressing their thoughts on the community service project “Touching is Touching.”

The winning students were 5 HD students in the Building Technology and Management programme, an HD student in Civil Engineering, 2 BSc (Hons) students in Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics, and 2 BEng (Hons) students in Electrical Engineering. They all welcomed the opportunity to serve the community in such a meaningful way. The HD students worked under the supervision of Mr Wai-Che Lee and Mr Stephen Lee of the Industrial Centre in the construction projects.

The degree students from the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics (LSGI) produced a 3-dimensional computer model of the school for the visually impaired students of Ebenezer to touch and feel.

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3D model of the Ebenezer School

 

Led by Dr Matthew Pang and Mr Nelson Chan of LSGI, students from LSGI applied their knowledge of land surveying and spatial data processing. According to Mr King Wah Lau, a fourth-year student from LSGI, the project was mutually beneficial for both PolyU students and the Ebenezer community. On the one hand, LSGI students practised their technical skills in conducting a Global Positioning System (GPS) survey and piloting an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to take aerial photos as part of the modelling process. On the other hand, the sight-impaired students gain a better idea of their school through touching the 3D model. His classmate, Mr Gabbo Ching, agreed it was definitely a worthwhile project, even though it was not without its share of difficulties, such as processing the data from the many photos taken by the photogrammetry survey and operating the UAV in windy weather conditions.

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A few LSGI students with the unmanned aerial vehicle

 

Overcoming challenges was also part of the experience for Ms Ying Yiu Lai, a second-year HD student in Building Technology & Management, who had some big shoes to fill in her role as a project manager. Her anxiety about fulfilling her responsibilities made her appreciate all the guidance provided by her instructors and the importance of developing problem-solving skills.

Two other HD students in Building Technology & Management worked as project managers. Ms Yuk Yu Cheung was encouraged by the unity of her team in renovating the home for the elderly. She hopes the Ebenezer students could feel the love and support from PolyU when they use the improved facilities. Understanding the needs of others was a key insight for Ms Cheung from having participated in this project. Her classmate Mr Chi Ho Yue agreed that it was necessary for the designs to be user-friendly and aspiring engineers to be mindful of the needs of underprivileged groups. He particularly cherished the opportunity to design a guiding path for Ebenezer students to feel their way around the campus through the sense of touch.

Other HD students from the Department of Building and Real Estate (BRE) who were rewarded for their leadership skills were Ms Kin Chi Chan and Ms Nga Sum. Ms Chan supervised her team to build one of the shelters at Ebenezer, while Ms Sum led her team to paint a shelter. According to Ms Sum, learning by doing was a golden opportunity for her to develop her communication skills.

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One of the shelters at the school

 

The sole winner from the HD in Civil Engineering programme was Mr Ka Ho Lau, who was involved in the renovation work. Not only did he meet students from another department, he also learnt how to work effectively as a team.

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Swimming pool with electronic shelters

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Renovation of a home for the elderly

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The winning students 
Back: Chi Ho Yue, Oscar Chow (FENG), King Wah Lau, Gabbo Ching, Ka Ho Lau 
Front: Chun Fai Kwan (FENG), Nga Sum, Kin Chi Chan, Yuk Yu Cheung, Ying Yiu Lai

 

Serving the Ebenezer community was indeed a valuable experience for these students, who all exemplified PolyU’s motto of “To learn and to apply, for the benefit of mankind.”