A hand-built rice harvester is the main attraction of the STEM fair

Among the booths displaying technology items from 98 student groups at the Serei Saophoan Municipal Fair under the theme “Together for Better Future Business”, a 14-year-old rice harvester model received much appreciation from the public. He was widely praised for the way he built it entirely from scrap materials.

Lim Vannarith, a grade 8 student from Prey Russey Village, Sangkat Preah Ponlea, Serei Saophoan City, used hard paper, foam, a radio, a small remote control car and skewers to make the harvester, for a cost about $10.

“I used discarded items like cardboard boxes and skewers because they were so cheap. I built the engine using a dynamo from a discarded radio and the remote control from a toy car. only parts I needed to buy were the battery and a sensor,” he explained.

His team had four members. Her older sister decorated the harvester, while two other students collected the materials. Vannarith is the one who put the project together and made it work. He explained that he was attracted to the project because he saw how agricultural machinery had made a contribution to local farmers.

Chhou Bunroeung, director of the Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sports of Banteay Meanchey, which organized the STEM 2022 (science, technology, mathematics and engineering) fair, which was held on August 16, said that the fair was to present the work of 98 groups of students. and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

He said that due to Vannarith’s use of discarded objects, his work has received a lot of attention.

Bunroeung, who spent more than two hours touring all the booths at the fair, told The Post: “We originally planned to show work by students in grades 10-12, but ended up including also 8th grade student projects.”

He pointed out that all inventions were closely related to physics, chemistry and mathematics. Public and private schools provided teams, with sponsorship from Coca-Cola and various electronics companies.

“We had expected around 4,000 people to see the fair, but in the end more than double the number of people who attended. We encouraged young people from Serei Saophoan City to join us, as we felt road safety issues could be dangerous for more distant students traveling to the fair,” he said.

Vannarith spent from a week to 10 days building his harvester, using his free time outside of school to work on it.

“If I had been on vacation, I would have finished it in less than a week, but as I study full time, I could only work on it in the evening. I have built excavators and dump trucks using similar techniques in as little as three days,” Vannarith said.

He used a drive belt and gears to operate the harvester, while straps and skewers were used to collect the rice. Cutting blades were made of cardboard and narrow pipe.

Audiences were surprised by his unique abilities and even more impressed when they discovered he had received no formal training.

“I just learned to do it on my own. I look at the actual machinery, then I start by producing several models. Finally, when I think the model will work, I install the motor and electronics,” he told The Post.

However, he admitted that producing the first prototype was difficult and it took him three attempts before he was ready to install the dynamo and remote control parts.

Vannarith said he received no training from anyone on installing the engine, although his electrician father told him “try more than you fail and you will succeed”.

Of the six models he built, he was only able to install an engine on one, for lack of financial means.

Education department director Bunroeung was very interested in all the exhibits and also expressed interest in adding a rocket-building competition to next year’s fair.

“This year we just had a regular fair, with no prizes awarded – next year we’ll make it a contest,” he said.

Buth Sa Art, Vannarith’s 45-year-old mother, said she was overwhelmed by public interest in her son’s work.

“Next year there will be a competition and I will encourage him to participate,” she said.

In preparation for next year, Vannarith plans to produce new machines that are inexpensive but offer big benefits.

“For next year’s competition, I will make a soil grinder and a water pump. I estimate that I will probably have to spend around 90,000 riels for these two machines, but I want to use new parts because sometimes it is easier than adapting old parts,” he said.

He also showed his ambition by saying he would like to compete in Phnom Penh in the future.

Regarding the study of STEM education in Industry 4.0, his mother said that she could not afford to send her son to study in Phnom Penh and requested that schools or other institutions provide his passionate and talented son access to scholarships.

“I would like to ask schools or donors to help my son get a scholarship. He really wants to go to Phnom Penh to study these skills because of his passion – and he is talented,” she said.

“I really want to study STEM skills. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to study these things, and in Serey Sophorn there is no in-depth teaching about them. I want to study in Phnom Penh because ‘In the future, I want to be a designer of technological devices,’ added Vannarith.

Keith P. Plain