Some 70 Thai and Singaporean students, plus teachers from various fields spent two weeks in a hands-on social innovation training programme to apply what they learned from class to benefit local communities.
Through this second Express Learning project run from June 14-27 by Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi (RMUTT) in co-operation with Singapore Polytechnic, the participants applied design thinking and came up with some solutions to people's problems.
The training was held at three locations the RMUTT campus and two communities in Pathum Thani's Nong Sua and Lat Lum Kaew districts.
Twenty-five students from each institute attended activities carried out under the supervision of some 20 teachers from both institutes who had undergone Certified Lex Facilitator training.
The idea was to let students improve their English language, teamwork and other skills while creating innovative solutions based on their fields of study including engineering and agriculture.
The innovations they came up with were a complete-cycle fertiliser-making facility and an agriculture learning centre at the Bo Ngern community in Lat Lum Kaew and the design of new packaging for sundry bananas for the Beung Cham Or community in Nong Sua.
Ruth Jayarani Rajasingam, a lecturer at Singapore Poly, said the students exchanged ideas during the training. "While both institutes' students studied in similar inclass environments, they were different in terms of outside-class learning due to different cultures and lifestyles."
During the activities, the Singaporeans learned about Thai culture and how to live with local people. They also had opportunities to nurture a voluntary mind and apply their knowledge for social benefits in real life, she said.
Supoj Lerdvech, a computer engineering sophomore at RMUTT, said he was particularly interested in the project because it would allow him and fellow participants to use English to communicate with friends, provide hands-on learning that boosts thinking and analytical skills and helping people in social development.
"To overcome my language barrier, I used a translation programme at first. It took time to adapt to foreign students who spoke English, but I managed to get along eventually," he said.
The most impressive part was to live and associate with international students. Friendships blossomed and idea exchanges ensued.
Natthaya Bubphavong, a sophomore in applied Thai traditional medicine at RMUTT, said she enjoyed passing Thai massage knowledge to her Singaporean friends.
Mingling with and learning issues from the locals themselves also was inspirational, said Thatcha Cafman, an engineering freshman at RMUTT. He said he plans to help people by designing new packaging for the Nong Sua community's sundry bananas.
For the visitors, everything was educational and an eye-opener. Aleka Yaw York Ling, a Singapore Poly student, was excited about her first visit to Thailand, where there were natural resources like trees and fresh air unlike the concrete jungle in her country.
"I had an opportunity to make organic fertiliser for the first time and the local people who taught us were very kind." The training catered to her wish to learn about Thai culture. "If I get another opportunity to come to this country again, I will no doubt come," she said.
Another Singapore Poly student, Chua Gui Hui Eileen, said her visit and stay-over at a Nong Sua community, allowed her and her peers to learn about the locals' problems for solution ideas.
She also witnessed Thai generosity and kindness at a "Bai Sri Soo Kwan" ritual.