MOST people would be familiar with the tale of how the late Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak assembled the first Apple computer in a garage.
Closer to home is Selangor-born engineer Pua Khein Seng, who claims to have invented the world’s first single chip USB flash drive.
The organisers of the Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair (KLESF) hope to enhance school students’ interest in science and technology, with the added bonus of creating the next Jobs, Wozniak or Pua.
The KLESF partners comprise the Asean Academy of Engineering and Technology (AAET), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology, Institution of Engineers Malaysia and the National Science Centre.
“The event’s main objective is to arrest the declining interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among schoolchildren,” said AAET president and KLESF steering committee chairman Datuk Hong Lee Pee.
“The fair makes these topics interesting by explaining how science and technology affects our daily life.
“It offers a hands-on experience to make learning fun. We want to create curiosity and interest in learning,” he said.
UTAR research, development and commercialisation vice president Prof Dr Lee Sze Wei said the declining interest in STEM is a global trend, which could be attributed to the perception that these subjects are difficult to learn.
“Most schools in Malaysia have, over the past 10 years, neglected practical work in science.
“It is important for students to be able to relate science to daily life and how it helps us,” said Hong.
KLESF is a three-day fair that features various programmes and activities related to science and technology. It also has a design mentorship programme for students and mentor development programme for teachers.
KLESF’s programmes are divided into five tracks - chemistry, biology, physics, IT and electronics.
“Activities lined up for the fair include hands-on experiments, science and technology projects, design contests, an exhibition by industry members, and even a magic show related to science,” said Prof Lee.
A magic show held last year demonstrated items such as a water-absorbing gel which was especially popular among young children, he added.
“There will be an opportunity to design an electronic system to create a simple robot or a mechanical structure that could serve as a solution to a daily problem at home or school.
“The industry participation will showcase how science and technology contributes to nation-building, such as in ICT and infrastructure.”
Interestingly, Hong said some of the learning need not be in a classroom environment.
“Science can even be taught in the kitchen or garden. One example is demonstrating the role of microorganism in foods such as yoghurt or the processes in making century eggs.
“Interaction with everyday items and the industry will go towards creating interest in science and technology among children.”
The first KLESF held last year at the National Science Centre attracted some 50,000 visitors. The organisers hope to double the number of visitors this year.
“The fair is open to schools, families and the public, though it’s targeted at children aged between nine and 15, who are at their formative years in school,” said Prof Lee.
“We are also inviting students from Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and several other Asean countries to join the exhibition.
“We have the resources to train teachers to create a more hands-on experience, such as demonstrating how to make soap or mini robots,” said Prof Lee.
“We’ve trained up to 200 teachers in Perak, Johor and Terengganu. The next programme will train teachers in the Klang Valley. This programme targets secondary school teachers, and has elements that are both related and not related to the school curriculum.”
Hong said that science is based on trial and error.
“We want to encourage students to embrace challenge, to keep trying until they succeed in solving a problem or finding the answer.
“We also want them to challenge themselves and develop an interest in learning.
“Subjects such as science and maths help train a person’s analytical capability and capacity. They are also the most effective way to develop logical thinking skills,” he said.
Learning science, he added, gives one the tools to change one’s profession.
The Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair 2015 will be held from Oct 30 to Nov 1 at the MINES International Exhibition and Convention Centre, Jalan Dulang, MINES Resort City, Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
For more information, visit www.klesf.net.
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