Today’s blog is written by Owen Paul, Student Ambassador Technical Program Specialist at MathWorks.
As universities transitioned to distance learning across the world, having additional resources to help students continue their learning is crucial. One community within MathWorks that has been helping students continue their learning is MATLAB Student Ambassadors. Their job is to help students through two main activities: in-person events and social media. Because universities transitioned to distance learning, hosting events has become trickier. Despite this new challenge, our student ambassadors have done a truly amazing job at making this transition. In today’s blog, I will share 3 examples of the great things that our student ambassadors have been doing to aid distance learning and expand their communities.
Students Learning Through YouTube
Our student ambassadors in Italy have always done a great job at hosting events. They consistently have engaging events with topics such as low–cost hardware, machine learning, and robotics with audiences sometimes over 100 students. The Italian ambassadors had even more exciting events planned through the rest of this semester, but they had to reassess these plans with the transition to distance learning. These ambassadors took the initiative to tackle this new challenge together as a team.
Thirteen student ambassadors from 7 different universities in Italy collaborate on a YouTube channel where they do live streams, post events they’ve recorded, as well as post other fun videos. They’re able to do events through live streams and, with multiple ambassadors running the live stream, they can present the information and answer questions without any delays. They also leverage other platforms such as WebEx to host events, record them, and then post them to their YouTube channel. Regardless of the platform used to host the event, storing them on the YouTube channel allows for the events reach hundreds of students.
By working together on this YouTube Channel, not only does this increase access to the events but it also sparks creativity. From making a trailer to promoting an upcoming event to having a video on creating the snake game using App Designer, there is no shortage of fun and engaging ideas. The Italian ambassadors share and develop these ideas through Microsoft Teams. Through this Teams group, they support each other with promoting events, coordinating hosting events for multiple universities, and making these events more entertaining for everyone.
A professor at one of these universities shared the positive impact of these student ambassadors by saying:
Having the help of a MATLAB Student Ambassador would notably improve the effectiveness in using MATLAB/Simulink within an academic course. Usually, the professor must give some preliminary lectures by her/his own, without the availability of appropriate examples and, sometimes, without providing the necessary information to complete the student training with additional material.
Turning Current News into an Event
Our next student ambassador, Sarah Hakam, started at the beginning of 2020 at the University of Houston. I make this distinction because most of the materials to ramp up student ambassadors are geared towards in-person events. But this didn’t stop Sarah from hosting her first event virtually.
For her event, Sarah hosted an online event through Zoom looking at the COVID-19 case growth in the United States. She started the event with a presentation on using MATLAB to plot COVID-19 cases, extrapolate data, and predict short-term case growth using public data. Sarah said that “It was a great way to look at how coding software is used for modeling and pandemic predictions.” I couldn’t have said it better myself; I’d just add that it’s also a great way to show that you don’t have to be a scientist to analyze and create a model for data.
Sarah also made sure that students left the session learning something new by asking each participant to write their own code to plot and predict COVID-19 cases. Each student chose a country of their choice and then presented their code to everyone else through screen sharing. Leveraging this feature in Zoom created a fun learning environment, as seen below, but also allowed students to apply everything that they learned. Now everyone who attended this event has a better understanding of MATLAB, can predict short term results of COVID-19 cases, and more importantly can apply these techniques on any data set given to them.
Virtual MATLAB Tutoring
As highlighted from the previous examples, there are different types of events that events host. One event that Pedro Mendes, student ambassador at the University of Auckland, has been hosting is MATLAB Tutoring Fridays. For one hour every Friday, Pedro answers students with any MATLAB questions they have. Originally these sessions were held in a help room on campus, but to adapt with distance learning he now does these tutoring sessions through Zoom.
When I talked to Pedro last summer, he told me that his focus is to help undergraduate students who are just getting started with MATLAB. He ensures to keep these students in mind with these tutoring sessions by sending out a poll asking what topics they need help with. Having these online sessions truly benefits these students as learning a new program can be daunting, particularly when you have questions and don’t know where to go.
These tutoring sessions aren’t just for students learning MATLAB for the first time. “If you are struggling with a difficult assignment, want to learn something new in MATLAB or you just improve your coding skills” is what Pedro tells the members of his Facebook group. His goal with these tutoring sessions is to help students with MATLAB. He truly embodies what being a student ambassador is all about.
These are just a few examples, but there are many more events and ideas that our student ambassadors are coming up with to keep students at their universities learning and engaged. Each student ambassador has a MathWorks engineer to help guide them, but without the creativity and hard work of these students none of this would be possible. Working with this program I am always impressed with the ideas these students come up with, and all the work they put in to be successful. I hope after reading this blog you share my level of admiration for these students. And if you are a student reading this and want to learn more about becoming a MATLAB Student Ambassador at your university click here to learn more. Thanks for reading and please share any new ideas in the comments section that you may have for the student ambassador team going virtual!
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