IN an age where technology is developing by leaps and bounds, more jobs related to science and technology naturally open up.
“Even the world’s top largest companies – Apple, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft – are highly science- and technology-based. There is a high demand for manpower trained in the discipline of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” said UTAR research, development and commercialisation vice president Prof Dr Lee Sze Wei.
However, he also said that there is a declining interest of science-based subjects in schools. “Malaysia needs 60% of school and university students pursuing STEM for a strong socio-economic development, but less than 30% of Form Five students are in pure science stream and the percentage is still dropping.”
With an aim to boost school students’ interest in STEM subjects, the Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair (KLESF) held last year at the National Science Centre attracted some 50,000 visitors.
The fair returns this year at MINES International Exhibition and Convention Centre, Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
It will be held from Oct 30 to Nov 1, featuring programmes and activities related to science and technology. Its partners are 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.
Dr Lee said that the fair will feature exhibitions by industry players, government agencies, NGOs and universities. “Besides that, we also have students exhibiting projects they had done in school.”
“Children can expect to get their hands dirty as there will be a lot of booths running hands-on activities. There will also be workshops where they can learn new things, such as making soap, extracting dye from plants and soldering a mini circuit board.”
“We emphasise hands-on activities. It’s not just looking at poster and videos. Hands-on activities are important in getting children to be interested in science and mathematics,” he added.
AAET president and KLESF steering committee chairman Datuk Hong Lee Pee said that participation from the industry has increased compared to last year. More than 100 exhibitors will be participating in the fair.
“The fair’s main objective is to create an awareness in parents. It also aims to bring up students’ interest to study STEM and perhaps pursue a career related to STEM,” said Hong.
“We are trying to show children how science relates to daily life. What they will find in the exhibition is more than just thoeries. We have brought in industries to demonstrate how science plays its role in various businesses.
“Apart from that, we also want students to understand how STEM helps with nation building.
“Most of the industry players we bring in are not to exhibit their products, but to show how they use science and technology in their projects. Gamuda Berhad, for example, will be bringing in a model of their drilling machines to show the children how they drill a tunnel,” explained Hong.
Exhibitors were carefully selected for the fair. “We make sure that that exhibitors we bring in are really in line with the objective that we have. There will be no selling involved at the fair,” Dr Lee emphasised.
A segment called the “Science of Magic” was a hit at the fair last year. For this segment, a magician performed tricks based on scientific principals which were explained at the end of the show.
Dr Lee said it was well-received and succcessful as the hall was filled to the brim.
“This year we are going to add another segment – kids will be able try their hand at performing some magic as well! Through activities like this, we hope schoolchildren will get excited about STEM.”
Dr Lee said the fair would be a good weekend trip for the family.
“Parents will be able to know more about STEM and the demand for more manpower in these industries. Their children, on the other hand, will be able to add to their knowledge. ”
Hong said promoting interest in STEM was a long-term effort. “The fair is targeted at children in their formative years – nine to 15 – as they start to build their interest during this time. Parents these days will let their children choose, so it all boils down to the interest of the students.
“We also want parents to be aware that studying science doesn’t mean that you have to become a scientist. Studying STEM is the best way of developing your analytical capacity and logical thinking skills. Most careers of the future will require these two skills,” he said.
For more information, call the KLESF hotline: 011-1888 9397 (Marianne).
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