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Dr Pooneh Bagheri Zadeh: Exchange program innovations

Dr Pooneh Bagheri Zadeh: Exchange program innovations

Dr Pooneh Bagheri Zadeh is the Course Director for Computer Science at Leeds Beckett University (LBU). She is dedicated to advancing research in new technologies and methodologies to improve the research environment at the university. Dr Zadeh spent nearly three years as a senior research fellow specializing in 3D technology like vision, construction and TV. She recently led a group of students to Nepal for a student exchange program in computer science held at the British College (TBC). Babita Shrestha from ApEx interviewed her about the exchange program and  students’ projects which they were working on.

Why is a student exchange program in computer science and engineering important?

Nepal and the UK are on opposite sides of the globe, each with its own unique culture and educational system. Yet, despite these differences, TBC and LBU offer the same courses, materials and assessment strategies across all three years of study. It’s like creating a bridge between two distant worlds through education. Ultimately, it’s not just about swapping cultures and knowledge; it’s about fostering a sense of belongingness and enriching the educational landscape for everyone involved.

What’s the future like for student exchange programs in computer science considering their impact and accessibility?

After our first visit last year, we’re back for our second round. We faced some challenges before, but this time, things have been much smoother. My team and I have made some adjustments to the program. We started building teams and fostering connections among students earlier, encouraging discussions about potential projects. This year, our focus has been on addressing real issues in Nepal through technological innovation, benefiting both countries. It’s not just about collaboration but making a positive impact as well. And to ensure everything aligns well, we strategically chose March to coincide with our Easter break and Nepal’s favorable weather conditions.

During the exchange program, what specific areas of projects students engaged themselves in to address real-world challenges?

At first, we divided our students into four groups, each comprising two students from TBC and two from LBU. Before our trip to Nepal, each group decided on a topic aimed at addressing issues in Nepal. Last time, I brought Raspberry Pi from the UK, but this time, we use in-house technology—Arduino, which has various sensors . While the UK students were familiar with Raspberry Pi, they learned about Arduino alongside the Nepalese students. And it was surprising to me how the students quickly grasped Arduino concepts during workshops on the first day.

In terms of projects, Group A focused on developing a ‘Flood and Landslide Detection System’ using ultrasonic sensors connected to Arduino. This system can measure water levels and soil moisture, providing crucial information to authorities to prevent floods, which happens to be one of the major issues in Nepal. Group B developed a ‘Real-Time Traffic Management System’ using infrared sensors to count vehicles in lanes. Based on traffic flow, the system adjusts traffic lights to regulate traffic, making use of smart technology to enhance traffic control.

Group C made a ‘Smart Gardening System’ with sensors that check soil temperature, light, moisture and pH. If anything’s off, it waters the soil, great for indoor gardening. Group D created a ‘Quality Water Control System’ that checks if water is safe to drink using pH sensors. The results show on a portable device, handy for checking water safety anywhere.

What is the significance of computer science education in today’s digital age?

I believe computer science education is like learning how to use a powerful tool that helps us in our daily lives. It’s not just a luxury anymore; it’s become a necessity in society. With everything becoming digital, knowing about computers is essential. And because technology is always changing, learning computer science keeps us up-to-date and ready for whatever comes our way. It prepares us for the future.

How does it empower individuals and societies in terms of innovation and progress?

It really boosts people and communities by giving them the ability to keep up with constant changing technology. This means always being ready to learn and adapt to new things. With these skills, individuals can stay at the forefront of innovation and creativity. Ultimately, this also prepares them to be more competitive in the job market and contributes to overall progress and innovation in society.

Given your extensive experience as an External Examiner Researcher and computer science, can you share how new tech advancement helps protect digital stuff and catch cybercriminals?

Because of my teaching experiences at various universities, I’ve explored different research areas, particularly in computer science, computer vision, digital forensics and cybersecurity. Currently, I have a PhD student who’s researching drone detection and classification using deep learning and machine learning methods. In the UK, criminals sometimes use drones to smuggle drugs into prisons and other restricted areas. To address this, the project utilizes visual systems and cameras, along with deep learning techniques, to detect these drones. Additionally, I’m working on a project in digital cybersecurity. We’re developing technology like body cameras, smart glasses and smart doorbells, which help prevent crime by capturing evidence at crime scenes.

What are your big plans for doing more projects and working with others in computer science and engineering?

We have a great team of people who have done lots of research in areas like IoT (internet of things) and cloud computing. While I’m here in Nepal, I’ve asked the head of the school and the computer science course leader to help us find more ways to work together. We want to make sure we’ve got solid plans in place for when I get back to the UK. I’m hoping we’ll see more people getting involved in research, both here and back home. And with our exchange program, we’re aiming to tackle projects that really make a difference in our communities.