For Ruwaida Kaed Beyh, a raspberry pie was simply a delicious dessert she occasionally indulged in.
That was before December 2015, when she attended the Raspberry Pi Workshop in Lebanon, held at ACS by the International Education Association (IEA), ahead of the first national Raspberry Pi competition that took place in May 2016. IEA is a global Lebanon-based non-profit organization that works with K-12 institutions to prepare students to become creative, collaborative, and productive citizens. The workshop was held over December and January.
Raspberry Pi, which is rather new in Lebanon, is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a monitor and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It allows people of all ages to explore computing while using various programming languages, as well as building robotics. Science teacher Simon Barakat helped provide the team with Raspberry Pi’s.
Before the workshop, Kaed Beyh’s exposure to programming had been limited to an elective computer science course at college, which did not manage to engage her interest.
But the workshop sparked her curiosity and fuelled her latent talent for coding and computing.
The ensuing months proved surprising even for Kaed Beyh herself.
“I discovered my love of technology because of ACS,” said Kaed Beyh. “When I first came here in 2011, I did not use computers much, not even for typing. I was more of a pen and paper person. But the professional development we receive and my own love to continue to advance prompted me to explore technology.”
Kaed Beyh put her heart and soul into working with her students to come up with an idea that they could work on and submit at the first national Raspberry Pi competition in May.
Having heard of the rising statistics of motorcycle accidents, students wanted to develop an all-terrain life vest that would protect bikers and other sports enthusiasts from the most severe impacts of accidents. The All-Terrain Life Vest would consist of a regular jacket that is fitted with an airbag that would inflate within 0.5 seconds of impact.
After school, Saturdays, holidays and time off became dedicated to developing Raspberry Pi-operated devices. In addition to the All-Terrain Vest, they worked on designing a kids-friendly socket that does not allow electricity to pass through except when a plug is inserted into it. Little fingers are kept safe.
The hard work paid off and the Middle School student team received the Innovation Award in the first Lebanon Raspberry Pi Competition for Schools, 2015-2016. Other award categories included Outstanding Team; High School First Prize; Middle School First Prize; Team Spirit Award; Code Award; and Design Award.
The ACS team included Daniel F., Danny S., Khaled H., and Sammy M. from Grade 8 and Aneel F., Mahdi AH., and Ali S. from Grade 7.
Some 29 schools (15 public and 14 private) participated in this year’s competition. They have submitted 43 projects (12 from Middle Schools and 31 from High Schools).
“We had among the youngest team members, including 12-year olds,” noted Kaed Beyh. “They felt a sense of pride because their idea was truly innovative and so far, we have not found anything like it on the market. What's more this is a product that not only could benefit Lebanon, but the entire world.”
She added: “Our students surprised the jury with their know-how and professionalism. They demonstrated the ACS mission through this project to serve Lebanon and Lebanese society. They were working hard with compassion, researching, identifying a challenge, and designing a product that would benefit their country.”
Kaed Beyh encouraged all teachers and students to explore the world of coding.
“Learning coding at a young age is completely different,” says Kaed Beyh. “I also encourage teachers to take coding courses because they can incorporate the acquired coding skills into their teaching by creating games from scratch related to the curriculum.”