CityU to develop e-book for local primary and secondary school students

Karen Cheng

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Electronic engineering students from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) will help promote e-learning by developing a new type of e-book, the CityBook, for local primary and secondary school students. With the support of industry, this non-profit-making initiative provides undergraduates with the opportunity to gain practical experience developing an applicable product.

The CityBook will look like an iPad but will be lighter and about the size of a double-sided 5R photo. The designers have incorporated a range of interactive elements to boost student learning. For example, students can do homework using the touch-screen monitor or download data or assignments such as animations and PowerPoint files via WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network). However, computer games will not be provided.

Professor Man Kim-fung, Head of CityU’s Department of Electronic Engineering, said the aim of the project is to enable undergraduates to take part in the development of a product, giving them practical experience before they join the workforce. In addition, developing e-books meets community needs and responds to government policy to promote e-learning.

“The CityBook project can help inspire CityU students’ creativity, enhance their self-learning skills as well as develop a product with market potential. The e-book will also help guide primary and secondary school students learn in a proactive way,” Professor Man added.

The project has already received support from industry. The Varitronix Group will provide technological support for the bistable cholesteric display (BCD) and internship opportunities for CityU students. Professor Man said he was grateful to Varitronix for its support, saying it will promote collaboration between universities and the industrial sector for the benefit of local education.

Mr Patrick Lo, Senior Manager – Corporate Development (Technical) of Varitronix added, “Varitronix’s BCD is an ideal display technology for e-book products. We are glad to provide CityU electronic engineering students with our unique BCD. For us, popularising the use of e-book products among students in Hong Kong is part of our social responsibility.”

Planning for the CityBook project began in August 2010; an initial prototype has already been produced. The next step will be to develop and optimise the necessary hardware and software. Under the supervision of two professors, students will be responsible for developing e-learning software, product specifications and the overall “look”.

According to the schedule, the hardware is expected to be completed in three to six months, while software development is on-going. CityU students will have the opportunity to work as interns at Varitronix over the summer on the production of the prototype and conduct tests. Progress is on schedule—a pilot study will be conducted in some schools in 2011–12—and the price will be around US$80 to US$100.

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