Thursday, June 25, 2009

RFID Library System

We have successfully developed and installed a library management system based on RFID. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, a kind of smart card like the Octopus in Hong Kong. A code that identifies the book is written into a small chip embedded in a plastic card, which is them attached to the book. This makes it very easy to perform check in, check out, taking stock, etc. We have been doing some work with RFIDs in the eToy Lab. So when Jubilee made the request, we decided to write a program using RFID to help them manage the 1,000+ books at the school.

Inevitably, it turned out to be more complicated than was initially specified. We have to write the programs, enter the information about all the books into the database, check and correct hte many mistakes, code the RFID tags, attach the RFID tags to the books, and test everything. Requests for additional functions were made, and more time and efforts were needed. But our team of students, particularly Gi and L, persevered, and deployed the system successfully. It is very gratifying to see a development project completed.

Some may considered an RFID-based system to be an overkill. For example, a bar code-based system may suffice. However, we are familiar with the technology, it is an good opportunity for our students to work on a practical system with state of the art technology, and a good showcase for use of information technology for Jubilee. So it is a good project to undertake.

It was also a good opportunity for our students to learn how to work together with other people. Inevitably, there are differences in opinion, judgement, working styles and attitudes. There were arguments and conflicts. Ultimately, they found ways to work together. Differences were side-stepped, if not resolved. It also allow us teachers to get to know the abilities, temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses of our students.

We have always emphasized that this is service learning, in which both the service and the learning are important. We are going to review the performance of each of the students with them, and give each a report card. Hopefully, they will find them useful for self understanding and improvement. It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to set up the projects, manage the projects and the students, and to guide the students. The efforts are not always appreciated by the students nor the university. But on the balance, it is still worth it - because of our faith and convictions. And I have to say I am privileged to be able to work with my collaborator G, the prime mover of most of these projects.


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