The Game of Interactions…

 

The Game of Interactions…


Volume 6 Issue 2 News & Resources | February 2013

 

(1)a
I always believe in the human touch, i.e. referring to the act of the heart, rather than the physique, in making changes and transformation. The stories and triumph of victors over seemingly insurmountable foes are in abundance and, certainly, there are powerful lessons for all of us, minnows. Once there was this author/thinker who said that we must not just be “high tech”, but, most importantly, also “high touch”. Yes, trying to be “high touch” may easily be said than done. The basic tenet is that we must never forget the human aspect in whatever we do, be it rigid technology development, or the perplexing and, mostly long-winded, software programming, as an example. Of course, most of the time it just does not seem possible, and the two things are just too incongruent. But, in this lie the challenge and the enigmatic power of the human mind, to find solutions, and of the human heart, to bear the difficulties. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent” These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr – the American civil right hero, and his words, although, implied the willingness to bear the brunt of physical sacrifice, would never be possible without a willing and determined heart. Vincit qui se vincit!

(2) 
I also realized right from the very beginning that one’s survival in life (also in academia) will depend much on the networking via interactions with other colleagues (and academics). Most often than not, the outcome of the interactions would not be as anticipated, or as expected. One cannot deny the existence of multiple unknown parameters in human dealings. We may see the physical presence, but the ulterior motives and unseen feelings will forever be hidden. We just need to learn to go with the flow. The outcome of the interactions would be managed as it comes. The most important rule is to be sincere and truthful in our intentions, which will translate into our actions. Honesty is always the best policy. And, I sincerely believe in interacting, we must be sincere and honest. As much as we want to gain the most, we should also appreciate the universality of that same feeling in most humans. “The feeling is mutual” as they say. We should avoid being selfish and manipulative. We should aim for the goodness in men, and the betterment of all. Yes, interactions among equal are natural and common, the only problem arises when one interact with the assumingly less fortunate subjects. This is where the opportunity to abuse and being manipulative show itself. Of course, it can also work in the other direction, where those of the seemingly lower status start to prop or do anything in order to get things they desire. Yes, the “ampu-ing” in action. We interact for a purpose. Let us ensure that the purpose is straight and not peppered with unsavory intents.

(3) 
I would advise young academics to consider the modes and approaches they adopt when they interact. The importance of networking must not be underestimated, especially in the small and closely-knit academic circle in Malaysia. What more if your area of interest is so specialized that only few brave souls are willing to be part of it, i.e. the more pertinent for proper interactions be conducted. One would need only one “interesting” incidence, due to lapse of judgment, to be remembered forever. The interactions in the academic world are aplenty. We interact with student, other academics, office administrators, parents, shop-keepers, school’s children etc. The list is never-ending. We just need to make sure we capitalize on these linkages and bring good to all. This is a bit utopian aim, but we need ideals so that we know we are always guided. Sometimes the opportunities to interact would need to be planned. In some other circumstances, the opportunities would knock on your doors. We just need to practice the way we interact and handle others. Though mistakes are unavoidable, we must always learn from the blunders and hope the “mishaps” are just minor hiccup in our way to become the perfect persona. Yes, we must always aim for the best, since alternatively, is to opt for failure. And remember, human interaction is just unavoidable.

(4) 
In doing R&D work, we now need to interact with our tools, be it hardware or software. One good point is that our subjects have no feelings (or opinions – if I may say so), and they would just blurt out the same things we put in. Rubbish in, rubbish out. The onus is now on us to determine or shape of the outcome. Our subjects also follow very established rules and strict behaviors. We just need to appreciate them, and now, for the first time, we just might be able to truly estimate the possible outcome. Although, saying that, in life, hardware also breaks-down, and software also crashed. Oh, the impossible art of trying to control nature. Of course, the unknown parameters are lesser, and we can even extract the model of the systems and processes. This is the beauty of working with inanimate object, i.e. we can always repeat and restate the approach and proposed solutions, without having to endure the possibility of broken relationships and unforgiving friends. Alas, the world would not be interesting then. We cannot survive unless we interact with others, occasionally. Yes, my point is that interactions are around us, and we just need to learn to handle them.

(5) 
As a research group, we have been interacting with many other research groups, around the globe. We have gained a lot from the linkages and networking. There are so many instances that would not have been possible without these symbiotic and positive interactions. So that people would be nice to us, we must initiate by showing that we can be nice to people. The law of attraction is at work here. Research group would not be able to address every research problems. Via the linkages, we learn from each other and hopefully we also learn to respect one another. Finally, Napolean Hill once said:

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed”

Let us interact!

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Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Novel and Noble!

 

Novel and Noble!


Volume 6 Issue 1 News & Resources | January 2013

 

(1)
The act of giving is not limited to the show of kindness that one portrays to others, or the goodly act of an organization proving that there is more to life than taking or gaining worldly things. The same similitude applies to other form of system or “living” organisms. The act of enriching those around us is so embedded in our DNA that it seems so weird for not doing anything other than serving ones desire, especially in dire situations and straitened conditions. The fact that sometimes we have more than we need is in itself a proof that giving is an act worth doing. The gratification of gaining can never match the feeling of self-worth and satisfaction as a result of giving and sharing. Yes, giving and sharing is the way forward. The more we give, the more we gain. This notion has been proven to be true, again and again, in various domains of human endeavors. The act of giving must now be exploited to the fullest extent, in order to acquire the greatest of benefits. But then, one must have in order to give. And, this simple statement summarizes our greatest challenge. In having lies giving, vice versa.

(2) 
Hesitation to share arises when one feels inadequate or insufficient. No matter how much one accumulates things, the feeling of dissatisfaction will always hound him/her. Nothing, it seems, will fulfill the thirst for more. Having more will strengthen rather than soften the hold of greediness. And this applies to all types of ownership, be it monetary things or even the hording of knowledge. As much as one would like to keep, the only meaningful behavior will be in the act of making use of the horded treasures. In knowledge, it can only grow more in sharing and educating others. The body of knowledge can even be made more meaningful when they are shared and utilized in real-life problem solving applications. This is the crux of the matter when knowledge are put in its appropriate position, and not kept hidden from the masses. The act of disseminating knowledge and the urge to enlighten others must be cultivated and encouraged. This will ensure long term sustainability of the knowledge provider as it creates an immediate circle of influence and support. The linkages created will also ensure greater exposure and unchallenged reasoning for existence for the knowledge provider, although this may not be the initial motivation for giving and sharing. The unseen benefits will be difficult to anticipate. Yes, nothing beats surprises, especially the joy of getting it.

(3) 
The act of simplicity will be another good trait that we will try to instill in all that we do in the coming months. Some said that the act of perfection is not of adding new parts to something, but of taking parts away from that something, and yet it still function to what we intend it to be. The act of simplicity is to avoid unnecessary parts and requirements. The simpler the system the more robust and easier the handling, this is the mantra. By aiming for the simple, yet functional system, we will ensure more cost effective and realistic the spending will be. By initiating the design and development with simple steps and way forward, we will certainly avoid the ugly mistakes of taking things for granted. Every step or action being taken will be very clear and also tactful. Sometimes the best solution is for the simplest option. Although in hindsight, the solution is crystal clear, it takes experience and knowledge to make correct foresight. Yes, everything looks easier in retrospect. So, the design and development efforts to address for research problems must always opt for the simplest, rather than the most complex solution. The “no free lunch” movement will certainly vouch for this statement. This is not a “zero-sum game”, rather a practical trade-offs kind of approach.

(4) 
For URRG and its members, 2013 should be look upon as another opportunity to create history and legacy. The past few years have shown that we have the capabilities and capacities to succeed. There are many success stories, and so do our failures. We must always strive for the best in whatever we do. And, for this year, we will explore the potential for sharing and giving, and also putting simplicity as the main idea behind each new design and novel system being envisaged. Many sales guru say that products are bought not because they are cheap, but because they offer the best solution to people’s problems. The customers are buying solutions, not products. Hence, in conducting R&D work, we must always provide real-life solutions, and not just beautifully crafted products. The solutions we proposed must be logical for the customers, and must not look intimidating, which immediately implies some probable complex after-sales problems. Yes, being simple will be the best option. With the era of outcome-based budgeting in the picture, we no longer have the luxury to spend and be superfluous, but are forced to optimized and be more economical.

(5) 
2013 will be a year of knowledge sharing and know-how dissemination to the masses. We will put every effort for the fulfillment of these noble aims. The way to do this will be via the simplest option. Our intention is clear and direct. We really would like to serve and be counted in nation building. The outcome might not fulfill the expectation of some, but, in the final analysis, to create real impact, we must look to the masses, and not otherwise.

“We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers” - Seneca

Thank you for reading. END.

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Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

2012: An Enigmatic Year

 

2012: An Enigmatic Year


Volume 5 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2012

 

This December 2012’s editorial is a bit late, I admit. This is purely my habit of putting off things which should have been dealt with the soonest. As it goes, a year just went by and all of us are struggling to make sense of the real measurable achievements and failures accumulated along the way. Yes, this is the time for sensible thinking, and being honest and true in auditing. Also, without fear, to be ruthless in giving merit or points, except for the deserving ones. We just have to do it right, and hope we can extract real-life lessons from them. No points in sustaining (or defending) bad habits. And, remember, people do say that bad habit dies hard. Good bye 2012, and welcome 2013.

We did start on a positive note in early 2012, and Alhamdulillah; in one way or another; we did end 2012 with an equivalent feeling of success. The quantum may be different, but there is certainly a sense of fulfillment and believe that we have made some impact, if not to others, at least to oneself. Let me run through some of the significant achievements. In Feb 2012, two of the articles from URRG came out in the maiden edition of IEM Bulletin under the Marine and Naval Architecture Technical Division (MNATD). Yes, this is free publicity for the group, and clearly a privilege to the chosen few. Thanks to the “unofficial” editor for allowing this to happen. Yes, our work and circle of influence has been fully documented. February 2012 also signified the beginning of a new research funding awarded to the research group – making the complete tally for ongoing research grant to five. We did start with a bang. Thank God.

Unfortunately, the harvesting season ended quite rapidly. March, April, May, June, July, August and September 2012 came and went away, without anything worth mentioning. Of course, I had the opportunity to go on an interesting sojourn to Yeosu, South Korea – attending IEEE OCEANS 2012. Interestingly, I managed to meet some familiar faces and revive my not-so-strong international linkages. World Expo 2012 in Yeosu was also not bad. Very interesting booths with very tired legs packaged together. I now know that I am not a fan of Kimchi the veg. I am not sure about Kimchi the K-pop since I have not met any. It is just not my taste. But of course, Kimchi is a signature dish of Korea. Back home, significant amount of efforts went into the school’s accreditation documents preparation during this gloomy period, but I do not count them since those are non-research kind of task. We managed to put together three SAR documents and submit them to the EAC office. It was a very taxing and exhausting phase for accreditation application, and the end is still not in sight. Of course, from the research output side, one of my students manage to graduate after putting so much to her work and contributing significantly to the group. Congratulation! Also, we manage to complete one research project, well almost, and get the other one officially extended by the Ministry. Yeah!

The “dry” months were also spent on organizing USYS’12 and worrying so much about whether the conference and accompanying workshop will be successful or not. The main worries were on the financial capability and whether people will actually attend the conference. By then, I have yet to settle and confirm the keynote speakers’ attendance. We also had this plan for a free workshop which has not been confirmed by the main convener, whilst the hotel has included the cost into the overall expenditure. Wow – talking about this responsibility. This was déjàvu to me as this was not the first time I felt such feeling. Alas, we pulled through, and the conference went quite well. Thank God. We also made many new friends and future contacts, especially via the free workshop. Yes, everyone likes free workshop. Although it was not free in the real senses, it provided meaningful platform of many things. The theme of USYS’12 was excellent and spot on – “Linking Expertise, Synergising Technologies” – a bit of a mouthful, nonetheless.

In December 2012, our planned special issue on Underwater Sensors and Applications went online and in-press. Thanks so much to Dr. Sundaresan from NISCAIR, India for giving another opportunity for us to share our research output. We had significant number of papers from the group, and the papers ensured we kept the KPI for annual publication output intact. One important lesson that I gained was that one must plan, execute the plan, AND, be patience for the fruits of the efforts. There was also another paper accepted in a good international journal with a better IF number. Wow. This paper really boosted the confident level of some of us. Alhamdulillah, one of my PhD students passed his PhD viva. Frankly, I was dead worried for the outcome. Alas, he succeeded, though a bit jilted from the barrage of questions and corrections. And, finally, the cream of this year-end harvest just has to be the “gift” which I have been waiting for so long. It came at last, and I am very grateful that everything went well. Yes, thanks for the sacrifice and patience. It makes everything so meaningful, and sweet. His name is Ahmad Rayyan - a fitting name for a handsome boy – just like his father .

Wow, what a harvest!

Let us look forward for 2013 – the year for simplicity and giving.

Yes, this is the group’s motto for 2013 – just to let you know.


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Dilemma of the learned

 

Dilemma of the learned


Volume 5 Issue 11 News & Resources | November 2012

 

So, where do we start to discuss the dilemma in identifying the culprits that are bugging our higher education system? From where do we begin to sort out the source of the troubles which have been brewing and ended with us churning out mediocre graduates to the masses? To whom can we shift the blame on this malaise? The questions are long, and the answers are nowhere near. Yes, I am talking about the current state of engineering education in Institute of Higher Learnings (IHLs) all around the country. Things are not just the same as old. The rise of new generations also generates new expectations. The old adage also seems to be irrelevant to the new millennia. It seems we just have to unlearn many old assumptions and, probably, learn many new ones. Yes, this is the only way if we would to hope to survive in the future. And, it is also good if we learn to shoulder the blame and face the real responsibility head-on.

The old idea of learning is the spirit of searching, pondering, thinking and deducting lessons from daily experiences. Learned minds cultivated the approach to model, test and verify hypotheses in order to arrive at an acceptable theses or facts. These accumulations of facts laid the foundations for civilizations and the exponential growth of the world as a whole. At the center of this whirlwind is the existence of an inquisitive mind searching for answers. This mind with an insatiable appetite for knowledge would easily sacrifice their comfort in place of enlightenment and understanding of truth. A learner would do anything possible and permissible to ensure they are in-reach and surrounded by the providers and pioneers of knowledge or ilm. The heliocentric model of a learner seems very apt to describe the position and situation the learner is enduring. The learner bears full responsibility for the accumulation, understanding and application of the targeted field of knowledge. They will adapt and adopt the best strategy to acquire knowledge, and hopefully, also the associated wisdom. Most obvious, the learner is not complaining, and what more the learned.

The world has certainly changed. Logic tells us that those who lacked must play the crucial role in cultivating. Hence, a student must learn and strive hard (and smart) in their learning. They should be the one who bear the responsibilities, and be matured enough to think the best of ways. They should also shoulder the blame in evolving to become a learned persona and, finally, a better person. But, in this post-modern era, the worries and responsibilities are shifted to the teachers and providers. They are now expected to adapt and adopt. The teachers/educators/lecturers are suddenly pushed to the center and expected to deliver and ensure the learners or students will learn. Weird as it sounds, the new curriculums expect the teachers to work hard (and smarter) for the learners or students to grasp and understand the body of knowledge. It is as though if the students failed, it is not of their doing, but the teachers. Probably because the teachers, educators or lecturers are not well prepared and ready to be teachers, educators or lecturers. Probably also, the undesired outcome is due to poor course planning, course deliver, course assessment and course Continuous Quality Improvements (CQIs) to the teaching and learning programme. Other possible reasons for poor students’ performance may also be blamed on outdated curriculums, ill-equipped labs and unsatisfactory teaching/learning methods. This blame game has been going on for so long, and surely, the burden falls NOT on the students or learners, but others.

The new teaching and learning method is supposed to be a student-centered learning process, and not teacher-centered. We were told that the students must now play more active roles. The teachers/educators/lecturers are only supposed to facilitate. This new approach is also claimed to be different to the spoon-feeding phase of yester years. Is this so? Not so, if you have asked me. The fact that every course must be preceded with clear planning, mapping, implementation, assessment and improvement, indicates the depth we are in the spoon-feeding cycle. It seems as though the universities are evolving toward a more school-like structures and, especially, in the Teaching/Learning approaches. This is a very weird and disturbing trend. The teachers/educators/lecturers are not prepared for this kind of commitment. They are evaluated for promotion on different parameters (research and scholarly output) , and yet have to be an excellent example in the other, i.e. teaching/learning requirements . Even students are complaining of the grave situations vis-à-vis the teachers/educators/lecturers. Don’t the students ever think of what they can do to make things better? Why not the students cleanse themselves of the victim-like or powerless kind of mentality? Take charge of your future and do all that are necessary to make things better (or to ensure you understand all that are being taught). The students/learners must take full responsibility of the learning phase in their academic life, rather than be too dependent and being immature of the situations. Students/Learners are supposed to be proactive and they determine the best approach to learning. It is no longer about the learned, but it is about the learner. Student-centered learning must means something to the students/learners themselves. It is NOT just a slogan to vouch on.

There would be some who will disagree of the view that students should be more assertive and creative in ensuring they will grasp and understand new things. This highly influential group put the role and task on the knowledge providers. The faculty and lecturers must ensure their planning, implementations and NOT on the students/learners. If the academic programme offered is found to be fragmented and incomplete, the programme would not get the sought after accredited status. In this situation, the students/learners will suffer. But, at the end the blame will be put squarely on the knowledge providers. I find this situation somewhat amusing and mind-boggling. We are supposed to train new knowledge workers and future educated generations, but yet we have failed to instill in our students/learners that they must be an independent individual and be brave enough to bear the responsibility of learning on their shoulders.

As a summary, in the era of Outcome-Based Education (OBE), I believe the students must take charged and be more enterprising. The weaknesses of the teaching and learning delivery must be balanced with the determination and persistence of the students/learners in grasping and understanding new knowledge. The student-centered learning must put the student at the center. And, the students must also be conscious of the fact that their success or failure is not of others, but solely of their own doing.

And for this, I rest my case…

The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant” - Plato


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The time has come…

 

The time has come…


Volume 5 Issue 10 News & Resources | October 2012

 

Recently I was asked to give a talk on how to plan and prepare an excellent and “believable” research grant proposals. Well, some people might have just presumed that I’m supposed to be an “experienced” and “well-seasoned” researcher whose life journeys are packed with valuable lessons to others intending a life doing R&D work. Yes, I do feel quite old now since I began some years ago in academia. But, physical condition, in general, not necessarily represents the wisdom that one will have and would have acquired. Fortunately, one thing that I can vouch to be true is the sweet and bitter experiences of going through the process of preparing, writing, submitting, defending, and waiting for the verdict. And, yes, feeling quite bad after knowing that you have failed or alternatively, getting to grip the warm feeling of success and the fact that one is now a holder of a research grant. Yeah! But, what should I do now? (Yes, this is the feeling you will have moments after knowing the successful outcome)

But, what would be the key points to convince the evaluators that your research proposal is worthy to be supported. This is as opposed to the mounting research proposals also being considered and seemingly good-looking as yours. Surely the evaluators will have a tough time to decide, what more with the forced dateline that should not and cannot be breached. Evaluators are human beings, facing the stress and anxiety of ensuring good decisions are reached. Ensuring that they chose the right research proposals are really the crux of the matter, and wrong decisions are not welcome. Hence, we – the researchers, must help them to make decisions. And, help is delivered by making our research proposals readable, coherent, clean, and most important, straight to the points. Unfortunately, the major difficulty is to ensure that our differentiation is glaring, and our research proposals have the rights “attractors”. What is the “attractors”? Those we will discuss shortly.

We need to attract the evaluators’ attention to the worthiness of our proposals. Any evaluators will have a check-list to mark. We must put extra efforts to ensure we make other people’s life easier and more tolerable. Of course, if we can anticipate the possible factors the evaluators are searching for, we will be high of the list. What could be the things they are searching for? We need to ask this important question. Imagine; having thousands of applications spread-out in front of you, and having to make decisions on the best among the pile. What is the best way forward? The answer lies in making our research proposal readable, coherent, clean, and most important, straight to the points. Have I repeated myself? I have! Sorry for this, but this is the truth. You just have to make sure your research proposal is readable, coherent, clean, and most important, straight to the points 

As the evaluators go to the general classification (or elimination) phase, they will look for, in most cases, simple mistakes, such as wrong format, missing information, unsuitable research field, bad grammar or spelling, and unrealistic requests. Yes, all those will get rejected in the 1st phase. Next, they will look at the objectives, research scope, methodology, promised outcome and the most important section, i.e. the proposed research budget or funding. They will then checked whether they have enough candidates for the final elimination round, i.e. the INTERVIEWs!. Depending on the number of applicants, the decision made in the 1st stage can be quite arbitrary, especially, when the numbers of applicants go into the thousands, and when they need to select less than, say, 10% of that initial number. If you are lucky, the evaluators will read your proposal from front to back, and this my friend, may not increase your chance, even an iota. Since, most probably, they will find more weaknesses (this is my feeling on the matter and not of the evaluators). The trick is to pass the 1st gate. For this, you must ensure you address all the general requirements of the research grants and hit the right notes at the right time. Meaning, study the research grants requirements in detail and make sure you fulfill them before submitting. The “attractors” are the list of points on the check-lists. If you have the luck to know them beforehand, you are certainly blessed my friend 

One important reminder is that you must not promised more that what is possible. It is acceptable to give more than expected, and not less than what was promised. Better, if you only proposed things that you have managed to develop or build. Until you are a well-known researcher or renowned scientist, it is a well-founded advice not to promise the stars, when you can only reach for the roof. Especially for novices, please make sure you engage the help of the seniors, at least as co-researchers, and be bold, brave and creative in your proposals. “Tread the path untrodden”. Yes, this is where the competition is less stiff and you have the golden chance to shine. Your research proposal will also be easily differentiated. Use the right and appropriate keywords. Keywords such as “sustainable”, “renewable”, “eco-friendly” or “efficient” would be good for any renewable energy related research grant applications. You need to fine-tune these keywords accordingly. Yes, be alert to the world out-there, and make sure your research proposal does make sense to the evaluators, who may just be the neighbour next door. Yeah, you wished 

As a conclusion, I hope I have shared ample examples of the way towards getting research grants to support your R&D works. I hope those pointers will be of use to many new and budding researchers. Hope that my mistakes will not be replicated and your polished proposals turn-out to be solid and convincing. As I have stated earlier, just make sure your proposal is readable, coherent, clean, and most important, straight to the points (by the way, this is the 4th time I repeat myself). And last but not least, do not forget to SUBMIT the proposals before the dateline expires. Good luck to you!

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect” - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit Online Magazine : http://www.shelter-mag.com/