Tech it Up with Techne: An Interview on TechWeek

Techne is an Out-of-Classroom Teaching Initiative (OCT) that aims to foster technological literacy and related problem-solving skills among Tembusians. In line with this goal, Techne is organising TechWeek, its inaugural week-long event exploring technology and its implications in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Treehouse interviews Eu Jin, one of the co-heads involved in the organisation of TechWeek, for a glimpse of the lightbulb moments and the gears behind their well-oiled machine. 

Tell me about TechWeek!

TechWeek is a week-long event that aims to encourage discussion on technology’s relevance in today’s society, and how it can be sensibly utilised for the greater good. 

Our theme is Navigating the New Normal. As Singapore is on the road of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to reflect on the unprecedented living and working conditions arising out of the outbreak, and how we have individually and collectively been navigating through it. Technology undeniably plays an integral role in facilitating our transition to the new normal. While embracing what technology has to offer, we should also take a few moments to critically enquire into how it has been used, its implications, and its impact on our lives, physically and mentally. 

The official TechWeek poster, designed by the Techne team.

How did the idea for TechWeek come about? 

Techne only very recently came to be the Out-of-Classroom Teaching Initiative (OCT) that we are today, after a series of evolutions from tCoders and Tembusu Technologies. Our vision as a team is to create a community within Tembusu where technology is integrated into our lives as a problem-solving tool for everyone, regardless of skill level and background. We have been conducting one-off workshops so far, such as Introduction to Python and a 3D printing workshop, but we also wanted to have a large-scale event that aligns with our goals and engages more students from the Tembusian community. We were inspired by Arts Week, which is already well-established within Tembusu College, and with support from the Arts Council, we began working on making TechWeek happen.

A paper torch workshop, organised by Techne for Arts Week, in conjunction with tArt and Yarn and Doodle. 

What are some things Tembusu students can look forward to?

We will be hosting talks that closely relate to the theme and that encourage discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various aspects of our lives. Topics covered in the sharing and discussion sessions include ethics in tech, particularly disinformation and its impacts during the pandemic; how social enterprise start-ups have been navigating the pandemic; and governmental-based COVID-19 projects. 

There will be a variety of workshops teaching a wide range of skills suited for beginners: such as narrative writing workshops looking at ways that technology can be used to explore society, digital art workshops, a UI/UX [user interface and user experience] design workshop, and a Telegram bot workshop.

There will also be an exciting week-long RGB light exhibition that everybody can come over to explore and play around with. It’s very Instagrammable too! 

A Techne workshop on data analytics, conducted over Zoom. 

What are you most excited for, personally speaking?

I am very excited for our Makers workshop. The Blank Canvas was actually built with having a makerspace within Tembusu College in mind from the very beginning. However we only officially opened up our makerspace last semester (AY19/20 Semester 2), and brought in much more equipment starting this semester. The space itself is for students to freely use to create anything with the equipment provided. However, many people are unsure of how to use them, such as the drill press, saws, and soldering iron. It took quite a bit of effort to get approval for a hands-on workshop conducted by external instructors (Sustainable Living Lab) given the current circumstances, but I think it is a great opportunity and view it as a potential long-term partnership to learn more sophisticated techniques from them. Participants will be able to build a Halloween lantern while learning how to use the various equipment in our makerspace. 

Another one I am really looking forward to would be the sharing session by Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, former NMP [Nominated Member of Parliament], from The Thought Collective. Given our theme is Navigating the New Normal, we also wanted to have a mental well-being talk during the trying times of the pandemic. We feel that it is very important to have a discussion beyond just tech, and take a step back to reflect on its impact on our mental health in a post-COVID-19 world. With terms such as “Zoom fatigue” popping up and much fewer social interaction in our lives, navigating the new normal has been a vastly different experience for each of us. We were inspired by Love Tembusu’s initiatives to promote mental health and provide support for Tembusians, and thought that this would be a great opportunity for us to gather together and share about it. 

What are some challenges you faced so far organising TechWeek? 

Having to start planning an event from a completely blank slate was already much more difficult than we had expected. However, our biggest challenge mainly stemmed from us wanting TechWeek to come off as welcoming to all Tembusians rather than an exclusive event for those from tech backgrounds. Therefore we were very careful to provide a variety of discussion topics related to our theme, and a range of beginner-friendly workshops that could at the same time still belong to TechWeek.

What do you want people to take away from TechWeek?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the immersion of tech into our lives. We hope to provide an avenue for all to ponder about the impacts of tech in a post-COVID-19 environment, while breaking the barrier that some may potentially have towards some aspects of technology. Most importantly, we want everybody to enjoy the events! Have Fun!!

An excursion to the ArtScience Museum, organised by Techne with tArt for Tembusu Takes A Break. 

What are some of Techne’s plans for the future?

As a team, we have been quite ambitious and are planning to try out more creative ways to involve Tembusians into tech. We are definitely interested in continuing TechWeek. In the next semester, we aim to focus on having a couple of projects for interested Tembusians to join and work on. Maybe a Tembusu mobile application, or a Tech Fashion Week? The possibilities are endless. (#tembusuhomeofpossibilities) Do stay tuned for more events from Techne! 

Do you have any final comments? 

I would personally like to thank all those that helped make TechWeek possible: the Techne team—Gabriel who co-headed TechWeek, Clara, Dan, Justin, Yilin, Edwin, and our mentoring Fellow Dr Eric Kerr—student instructors, and external speakers. 

Thank you Treehouse for suggesting this interview, and thank you all Tembusians for supporting TechWeek. 

TechWeek will be taking place in Week 10, from 19 to 22 October. Students interested in signing up for the various workshops available should keep an eye out for more information from the TechWeek team. From beginners to veterans, everyone is welcome.