Friday, December 3

Festival seeks to promote STEM subjects among youths

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Craik (front row, fifth right), Rennie (front row, fifth left), Koh (front row, fourth left), Heriot-Watt staff and participants of the STEM Youth Festival at the inaugural festival.

Craik (front row, fifth right), Rennie (front row, fifth left), Koh (front row, fourth left), Heriot-Watt staff and participants of the STEM Youth Festival at the inaugural festival.

KUCHING: Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (Heriot-Watt) and the British High Commission recently organised the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Youth Festival to highlight the importance of STEM among the younger generation.

Heriot-Watt provost and CEO Prof Robert Craik said STEM was important to the university not only because of its legacy but also the role it plays in building and shaping the modern world.

“Furthermore, the event is in line with the Malaysian government’s aspirations to increase the percentage of student involvement in STEM areas as the country moves towards becoming a high income nation,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Around 70 students from five international schools namely Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, Epsom International College, Asia Pacific International School, ISP @ Desa Park City and Tenby International School attended the full-day event featuring three concurrent workshops, out of which one was sponsored by VEX Robotics.

These were the Bridge Construction Challenge led by Heriot-Watt’s School of Energy, Geoscience Infrastructure & Society; ChemE Car Construction by the university’s School of Engineering & Physical Sciences (Chemical Engineering Unit); and VRC Speed Build Robotics by VEX Robotics and the university’s School of Engineering & Physical Sciences.

“With growing societal need to enhance STEM instruction in classrooms, Centillion Robotics is happy to work with partners such as Heriot-Watt University Malaysia and the British High Commission to give schools and students a taste of VEX’s integrated learning programmes. This programme allows teachers to engage students in creative and meaningful ways while meeting today’s rigorous academic standards.

“We need to work together to develop the workforce of tomorrow by empowering schools and educational systems to deliver 21st Century learning experiences through quality teaching tools and academically-developed curriculum,” said managing director Kevin Koh of Centillion Robotics (exclusive distributor of VEX Robotics in the Asean region).

The workshops culminated in competitions that saw winning teams from each workshop pitted against each other in a final round to choose the champion for the festival. The three teams were required to give a presentation before a panel of judges comprising British Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia Paul Rennie, Centillion Robotics Koh and Craik.

The ISP @ Desa Park City team from the Robotics workshop was winner of the festival.

The inaugural STEM Youth Festival also trained the spotlight on gender equality and empowerment in the STEM sector, accentuated by an all-girls team winning in the Bridge Construction Challenge category and they went on to grab second place in the final round.

“STEM is no longer a male-dominated field, as we’ve seen many women engineers of calibre throughout the years at the University. We continue to advocate its importance equally to both boys and girls from a young age, and hope events like this will help girls and women everywhere see their potential, not just the field but also their capability to contribute to it,” Craik enthused.

The three winning teams went home with prizes sponsored by Heriot-Watt as well as a special invitation to hi-tea at the residence of the British High Commission.

“We’re delighted with the interest in the event, and hope to make this an annual affair. The schoolchildren showed promising potential and we look forward to seeinf them grow their talent,” said Craik.

The event marked a significant milestone in industry and education collaborations between Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

“The UK places great emphasis on STEM education programmes to inspire the next generation of innovative thinkers. The programmes bring together schools, employers and young people to bring STEM learning and career opportunities to life,” said Rennie.

“We are proud to support the growth of STEM education in Malaysia. It strengthens the long-standing education partnership between our two countries,” he added.