AMRA Academy: Thinking with engineers

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Mudassar Ahmed and Foaad Tahir, AMRA UK

Society is made by engineers. Their job is to solve real world problems, whilst building and supporting infrastructure upon which society can live and flourish. This requires ingenuity and genius. It requires hard work and perseverance.

To instil such demanding qualities, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association (AMRA) ran an engineering workshop on 27 December 2019 at Bait-ul-Moeed, Cambridge, UK. The workshop was organised under the auspices of AMRA Academy, the educational division of AMRA. This was part of the winter retreat for 12 young Ahmadi students from 4 different chapters of Hertfordshire region, with ages ranging from 13 up to 17 years old.

The aim of the AMRA Academy is to enable youngsters to experience learning in a hands-on way from experts in their respective fields. Previous workshops have included rocket building and DNA sequencing to name a few. This workshop comprised of two different hands-on activities for the participants.

Automotive design: Building the fastest car

Foaad Tahir, a University of Cambridge graduate and a Formula 1 enthusiast, who also serves as the Head of AMRA Academy, led this session and introduced the students to the world of automotive engineering. He highlighted the need to strike the right balance between the weight, horsepower and aerodynamics of the car, and how a heavier car would be desirable at the bends however a lighter car will go quicker on straight roads.

This inspired some interactive discussion which was followed by a handson-activity where students, in groups of 4, took upon the challenge to design and build their cars using K’nex. In the end, the cars were raced against each other from a slope with the winning car going as far as 2.9m.

The activity gave students a flavour of automotive engineer and spurred interesting discussions amongst them.

Algorithm unlock: An introduction to coding

Mudassar Ahmed led the coding session. Mudassar is a final year PhD student at the University of Cambridge and a passionate engineer, who also serves as the Regional Director of Student Affairs (Hertfordshire). The workshop was designed to complement the hardware (discussed above) with the software to give a holistic picture to the young enthusiasts. The students were introduced to the world of coding, programming languages, logic and semantics at a higher level.

Numerous pre-written codes in C-language were shared with students on the laptop to give them a flavour of programming, which were compiled and uploaded on Arduino. They were later asked to tweak the codes to change the SOS blinking duration to ensure they grasped the idea.

The session concluded with students sharing one real life example where programming is in action as well as the underlying high-level logic. The students found the session useful in getting to know the engineering behind the inventions around them including driver-less cars. They felt inspired to not take the engineering marvels for granted and invest some time to familiarise with their working principles.

If you would like advice on any of these activities please contact AMRA at research@ khuddam.co.uk

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