Sparking STEM interest in schools

Nurturing young minds: e-KLESF 2021 offered more than 30 free webinars, quizzes, competitions, workshops and activities.

IT is important to spark science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) interest among young children so that they are keen on these subjects and will later on pick these fields as their careers.

Speaking at the Virtual Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair 2021 (e-KLESF 2021), Asean Academy of Engineering and Technology (AAET) president Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Datuk Dr Chuah Hean Teik said the buzzwords nowadays are industrial revolution, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Covid-19, vaccination, and healthcare, all of which require a lot of STEM knowledge workers, whether they are doctors, engineers, scientists, technologists, or mathematicians.

Education Ministry deputy director-general (Teacher Professional Development Sector) Dr Ahmad Rafee Che Kassim said KLESF is in line with the ministry’s mission of producing skilled and sufficient human resources in the STEM field to drive the national economy.

Ahmad Rafee, in his speech during the opening ceremony of the event which was held from Oct 23 to 31, said STEM education is one of the agendas under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 to 2025 with the aim of preparing the younger generation to face the challenges of the 21st century.

“Various programmes and activities have been carried out to enhance not only the interest of students, but also the competence of teachers in STEM,” he said.

Following its success last year, the e-KLESF 2021 made a return this year with a programme packed full of STEM-inspired activities.

Held via Zoom and Facebook Live, it offered more than 30 free webinars, quizzes, competitions, workshops and activities for participants to experience real-world STEM applications with the aim of nurturing and inspiring young and innovative minds.

KLESF steering committee co-chairman and Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) president Prof Dr Lee Sze Wei said although the Covid-19 pandemic has radically disrupted lives, there was tremendous development in science and technology.

“This is a time where our children and young generation see STEM as a good way for them to move forward in terms of learning and career development.

“This also encourages us at KLESF to continue our work to further improve and enhance interest in STEM among schoolchildren and the youth,” he said.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) president Prof Dr Ewe Hong Tat said the younger generation needs to be exposed to STEM subjects at a young age so that they are aware of their importance in a variety of aspects of their daily lives.

“e-KLESF thus aims to generate interest and excitement in STEM among students, the public, parents and participants from all over the world and at the same time, prepare students with the skills to meet the challenges of science and technology in this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Run since its inception in 2013, the fair was jointly organised by AAET, Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM), Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Malaysian Invention and Design Society (MINDS), TAR UC and UTAR.

KLESF steering committee co-chairman and MIGHT president and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman expressed hope that the event will continue to be held online to extend its reach to more people over a greater distance.

“We think this is the way forward. Future KLESFs would be a hybrid that would combine both virtual and physical interactions,” he said.

He added that the way forward for the world is through STEM education, emphasising that collaboration and partnerships are the keys to delivering solutions to world problems in the future.

Congratulating students on their participation at the fair, MINDS president Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Augustine Ong Soon Hock called on them to take part in the World Young Inventors Exhibition in December 2021 and May 2022.

“STEM education is essential for progress and development. Furthermore, learning to apply STEM knowledge through invention, innovation and creativity will benefit mankind,” he said.

IEM president Ong Ching Loon said fortunately with the advancement in science, technology and engineering, the pandemic has not totally hindered mankind’s ability to carry on with lives and businesses.

“It is so important to motivate students to pursue their interest in STEM. They can share their project ideas with their friends, parents and others. It also contributes to the social development of students,” he said, adding that KLESF has attracted more than 60,000 participants since 2013.

The event was supported by the Education Ministry, Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) and the Malaysian Institute of Physics (IFM).

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