Perhaps few people think of the far off provinces of the Kingdom as centres of innovation, but a private school near the Vietnamese border is working to dispel that myth.
Students at the Rahma International School – located in Por Rong Leu village of Koang Kang commune in Ponhea Krek district, Tbong Khmum Province – have developed a wide range of technological marvels, including an electric wheelchair, a robotic fire fighter and a machine which hauls water tanks.
The school’s students are predominantly Khmer-Muslims, and the school has formed a science club which trains and mentors 18 students – eight of them female – to conduct scientific research and work with electronics.
One of the students, Ron Amsory, 18, told The Post that his parents sent him to the school in third grade. When he reached grade five, he began to experiment with building toys.
“At first, we just started creating things to entertain ourselves, but later, we learned new things from the programme and the internet and began thinking of useful devices that we could build,” he said.
According to Amsory, the robots his team has created include fire fighting machines, wheelchairs for the disabled and trucks. They have only produced prototypes so far, but with further development he believes their creations will be ready for commercial use.
“My team gets together once a week. We make a clear plan of where we need to start to achieve the outcome we want. Generally, we start with the skeleton of the robot and then divide the work into individual tasks. That way we know how many participants are required for a project,” he said.
He said that he and his teammates had been conducting scientific experiments since elementary school, with the complexity of their goals increasing along with their skills. Ultimately, they wanted to test their abilities, although they wondered to what extent their work would be recognised.
He believed that the research they were carrying out had led many to a previously unknown passion for mechanics and engineering, and he expected that many of them would go on to study in related areas at university.
“I’m not sure what I will be in the future, whether I’ll be a scientist or whatever – I just know that I enjoy this kind of work and want to be in this field,” he said.
Na Siet, deputy head of Rahma International School, said his institution is supported by the Rahma International Society in Cambodia, an offshoot of a Kuwaiti organisation. The school, licensed by the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sports, was established in 2014 and currently has a total of 576 students.
He added that the school offered classes from kindergarten to grade 10.
The school offers Khmer general education, Arabic and English, and established the science club to let the students use what they learned in maths, physics and chemistry classes in a practical way.
The 18 students who are working on the robotics projects are aged from 14 to 18 and are all in grade ten.
“The students who invented these robots have been students here since elementary school. They began learning about very basic switches and circuits, but as you can see, they have developed a long way from those simple beginnings,” he said.
Their innovative designs have yet to receive any official recognition, he added, but noted that their devices had been exhibited and certainly caught the eye of the guests who witnessed them in action.
They had been praised by many officials and the provincial governor had personally congratulated them and given them a cash prize of one or two hundred dollars, he said.
Koang Kang commune chief Luy Ean told The Post that his commune was in a remote area and had never had a private school invest there before, so he was pleased when a foreign organisation opened the Rahma school. Many of the province’s children had received excellent educations there, he said.
He added that there were many Khmer-Muslim in Por Entr 1, Por Entr 2 and Trapeang Khchang villages, and most of their children attended the school.
He said he had never seen school students who were capable of devising such complex machinery before, and was proud that they were from his commune.
“I am very happy to see the progress of the students of Rahma International School. As we are a rural area, I never expected to see this kind of innovative thinking happening here,” he added.