One day, Chalmers alumnus Johan Hedlund (I08) chose to mentor a class whose task it was to create a social robot in the Technology Competition for Swedish Year 6 – a choice he looks back on with joy and hope for the future.
“Coach a class in engineering” was what the post on LinkedIn said, challenging members in the alumni group to become mentors. The task was to assist a class involved in the Technology Competition, where the children had to develop a robot that would solve social problems in the areas of health and healthcare, care for the elderly, schools and the environment. Sixteen schools and 800 children from all over Sweden took part, and Johan Hedlund was one of several Chalmers alumni who became mentors and members of the judging panel for the competition. For some time, Johan had been considering getting involved and, when he saw the post, all the pieces fell into place.
Johan has two children of his own, so an objective such as this is something close to his heart. The opportunity to do society a favour – by combining his experience as an engineer and his interest in social issues – was not one to be missed.
Chalmers organises several competitions in the course of the year to stimulate interest in technology among the young. An important part of the activities is the work that Chalmers students and alumni do to put the children and teachers in a strong position to compete. This is a way of showcasing the variety of things an engineer does, and the aim is to capture the imagination and awake an interest that might then develop into a career choice. Although that interest is there among some enthusiasts, more need to get involved. Many people may worry that it takes up too much time and will be too difficult to fit into busy daily schedules. According to Johan, spending two half-days on the mentoring and the work of the judging panel was a reasonable amount of time to put in outside his working hours.
Currently, Johan works as Solution Manager at Aareon Nordic, providing digital solutions in the property industry. He does not work with robots on a daily basis, but his experience of problem-solving provided guidance to the children as to how they should approach inventing new things. The children received plenty of useful advice about how engineers work, experimenting their way forward and giving themselves permission to make mistakes before arriving at the solution in the end.
“We had interesting discussions about how they should identify the problems that are worth solving to make the world a better place. They were brilliant at coming up with imaginative solutions that would solve the problems in a playful way,” explains Johan.
Owing to the pandemic, all the guidance had to be given digitally, and finding a good way to engage the whole class was a challenge. At the same time, the geographical spread was bigger – schools from all over Sweden had the opportunity to take part and get guidance from the mentors.
The Technology Competition will be held again next year, and then the challenge will be to design the playgrounds of the future. Johan’s quick response is that he is looking forward to providing guidance to a new group of creative future engineers and architects.
Read more about the Technology Competition (In Swedish)