What would you do if a super typhoon like Mangkhut struck Hong Kong again? That was the question posed to pupils at Marymount Secondary School to get them to come up with creative ideas to solve societal issues for a year-end, graded assignment. The project was part of an initiative by the girls’ school in Happy Valley to revamp its computer literacy classes to promote innovation, while allowing the Secondary Two pupils to have a sense of ownership in their work. Shirley Ann Fu Tang, head of the IT and computer subjects department and the main coordinator of the initiative, said that in redesigning the curriculum, teachers included the two Es of empathy and entrepreneurship in STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, education. “Pupils cannot fully get into the mode of creation and design thinking unless they see a real need,” she said. There was also a twist to the project – pupils were asked to put themselves in the shoes of a scientist inventing a gadget for a superhero of their choice in saving Hong Kong from the hypothetical typhoon. Fu said this was to get pupils to relate to the project while thinking out of the box. One group came up with a self-inflated portable safe house to help DC Comics superhero Flash in the event of a building collapse. Number of top scorers for IB exams in Hong Kong drops to 34 “Flash has the ability to pass through floors and walls so he can bring the entire safe house underground,” group member Venice Hung Wing-see said, while explaining the idea using a 3D-printed prototype. She said it would be similar to a bouncy castle to reduce injuries with the exterior made of a waterproof and windproof material. The design also came with an extension connecting it to the collapsing building to help move people into the safe house. Hung said she was really scared when Mangkhut battered Hong Kong last September, recalling that many windows were smashed and her family did not have enough food at home. This served as the inspiration behind the idea of the safe house. The most intense typhoon in the city’s history felled at least 46,000 trees, smashed hundreds of windows and left more than 1,000 roads blocked. Fu said the projects, which were submitted in June after 2½ months of work, would enable pupils to integrate different skills learned in computer literacy classes throughout the year, including through Makey Makey, an electronic invention tool and toy that allows users to connect everyday objects to computer programs. She said she came up with the idea, which was then fine-tuned by her six other colleagues working on the initiative, after they attended training at MIT in the United States. Ten teachers were sponsored by the Catalyst Education Lab since 2018 to go to the renowned US university for conferences and workshops to learn new technologies and teaching methods. Could children solve the US-China trade war by playing game online? Fu, who worked as a programmer at IBM before switching to teaching, said she heard from friends in the industry that local graduates were not well prepared in applying skills they had learned. “I think Hong Kong students are very intelligent and very good in acquiring academic skills but there is a gap in terms of applying them in their work,” she said. The educator added this might stem from insufficient hands-on experience, which could be improved by initiatives like the school’s.