Archive for the ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’ Category

Science can empower economy, people

Monday, December 21st, 2020
Many sectors, including the rubber industry, can benefit from embracing science to achieve shared prosperity for all. - File picMany sectors, including the rubber industry, can benefit from embracing science to achieve shared prosperity for all. – File pic

LETTERS: The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry launched the new science policy called the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation 2021-2030 (DSTIN 2030). Its minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, officiated the virtual launch on television. The event was a good platform to herald the contributions of the Academy of Science (ASM) to crafting the policy, as well as a new framework linking science to society and the economy.

Fellows at ASM were excited about the publicity.

For more than 20 years, ASM, the nation’s leading think tank on science, has been behind the scene contributing ideas on science to the nation. This time, thanks to the ministry, ASM’s excellent work has been brought to light. Hopefully, the publicity will inspire much public interest in science.

In this era of digitalisation and innovation economy, we should think about how science can better serve the nation. Most of all, we should engage the youth and inspire them to be innovative. We also need to be competitive to survive in the world market, which continues to see new players. The Internet has empowered many communities around the world in a bid for a share of the global wealth.

What is interesting about the new science policy is its link to society and the economy. Many quarters are positive that the science and technology, innovation and economy (STIE) ecosystem framework, called the STIE 10-10 Framework, unveiled during the launch, would instil new vigour in making science more relevant to the nation’s efforts to empower society and share in the economic prosperity.

Many sectors can benefit from embracing science to achieve shared prosperity for all. The rubber sector comes to mind.

Rubber farmers are in desperate need of support for a strong dosage of science, technology and innovation (STI) to lift them out of their doldrums. The agriculture sector also craves for a similar injection of STI to bring progress. The food security sector deserves priority.

While the plan is well and good, serious thought must be given to how to bring the ideas to fruition. This has always been the nation’s weakest link — the implementation of plans, blueprints and policies.

We need what economists call the special purpose vehicle (SPV) to realise the good motives of the plan. And since the success of this plan does not rest on one ministry, the SPV must cut across all ministeries. The job of the SPV is not only to put the plan into action but also to monitor, evaluate, analyse and report on its implementation.

Since ASM, through its fellows, has been the principal contributor of the policy and framework, it may be pertinent to align the SPV with ASM. The SPV will have to spell out the processes to implement and monitor the plan. Research and development are the critical elements of the plan.

It is encouraging to note that fundings would be raised to 3.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product by 2030, not far behind developed economies. The more crucial matter is the choice of research to be funded. It should comprise fields that bring benefits to the economy and society.


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Science matters today and in the future

Thursday, November 5th, 2020
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Singapore were quick to adopt new-age technologies such as contact tracing apps and virtual health consultations to maintain public health and safety. - NSTP/HAIRUL ANUAR RAHIM. In Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Singapore were quick to adopt new-age technologies such as contact tracing apps and virtual health consultations to maintain public health and safety. – NSTP/HAIRUL ANUAR RAHIM.

IN Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Singapore were quick to adopt new-age technologies such as contact tracing apps and virtual health consultations to maintain public health and safety.

This clearly demonstrates the importance of science and innovation and its relevancy in today’s constantly changing circumstances. A similar sentiment is reflected in the findings from the second wave of the annual State of Science Index (SOSI) by 3M, called the 2020 Pandemic Pulse, which was fielded in July-August 2020, about six months into the pandemic.

Against the backdrop of Covid-19, 89 per cent of those surveyed trust science; 86 per cent trust scientists; and 77 per cent are more likely to agree that science needs more funding. Moreover, 92 per cent of global respondents believe actions should follow science to contain the global pandemic, revealing another measure of trust in science. It seems that for the first time, there is a renewed global appreciation for science and the relevance it brings to our everyday lives.

A world that has been increasingly sceptical of science seems to be waking up to its importance. According to SOSI, for the first time in three years, only 28 per cent* of people surveyed remain skeptical of science (denoting a 7-point drop in skepticism in less than a year). Never in the history of SOSI has there been such a notable reversal in trends.

Globally, people are beginning to rally around healthcare workers and scientists as society’s new superheroes. This includes the heroic trio that comprise of international country public health experts – USA’s Dr Fauci, New Zealand’s Dr Ashley Bloomfield and hitting closer to home, Malaysia’s Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. Instead of cloaks however, these superheroes don PPE and the superpowers they possess are medical expertise, backed by science.

While delivering healthcare solutions continues to be a priority in light of the pandemic (80 per cent), people are now looking at science to solve critical issues related to the environment and social justice, including STEM equity and accessible STEM education for all. In fact, according to SOSI, 82 per cent of those surveyed agreed that there are negative consequences to a world that does not value science.

While the pro-science sentiment is much stronger today, too many people have been discouraged from pursuing science, especially the younger generation. SOSI reports that younger individuals (28 per cent) are three times more likely to have been discouraged to pursue science as compared to baby boomers (9 per cent).

Perception matters. There are several negative first impressions that students often harbour when it comes to pursuing STEM subjects. This could revolve around lack of access, confidence, as well as gender and racial inequality that decreases their aspiration towards a career in STEM despite the presence of a support system.

For instance, the Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian governments spend 20 per cent of state budgets on improving their education systems and implementing STEM subjects into their curriculum. Yet, many Southeast Asian students still feel a disconnect between STEM subjects as taught in the classroom and its practicality in the real world.

In 2018, only less than half of Malaysian students (44 per cent) chose STEM subjects and only 33.1 per cent of students decided to pursue STEM fields in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Philippines ranked the second lowest among 79 countries in both mathematical and scientific literacy in a programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

While STEM is now starting to gain attraction in Vietnam, scarcity of STEM books & other science materials, the lack of proper training and innovative thinking amongst teachers are some challenges that STEM education is facing in this otherwise rapidly developing market.

Another key driver to STEM studies is showcasing the diverse potential for career advancement through science and technology. The Southeast Asia region today is one of the fastest growing markets with a potential for more technological advancement. With new opportunities arising within these markets, there will always be a demand for an equally qualified workforce.

For example, Thailand has aspirations to become a developed nation by 2035 with the aim to make innovative strides in the field of artificial intelligence, robotics, biosciences, aerospace and other new pillars of what is frequently termed as the world’s fourth industrial revolution. The Philippines on the other hand, is already moving toward the establishment of its first smart city and Indonesia has been bookmarked as the regional technology hub, already giving birth to disruptive technology-based start-ups such as Traveloka and Gojek.

As these markets gravitate toward technology maturation, STEM related studies can help to produce skill ready and qualified graduates equipped to enter the industry with a fresh perspective and zeal for innovation.

Whether it is finding new sustainable solutions to solve critical global challenges or encouraging more of the younger generation to pursue STEM studies, collaboration amongst governments, private businesses, academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is imperative to drive scientific growth.

SOSI 2020 reveals that 53 per cent of respondents believe that amid major challenges in 2020, corporations should prioritize collaborating with governments for solutions to global challenges — second only to preparing for future pandemics (61 per cent).

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Every year, 3Mgives runs an international competitive grant to support the key pillars of Community, Environment and Education. In 2019, for the 3Mgives Education grant category alone, 3M has invested US$150,500 to advance equitable outcomes for underrepresented groups in Southeast Asia.

This has been made possible by actively collaborating with local NGOs and organisations involved in education. In Vietnam, USD$22,000 was awarded to Loreto Vietnam, in Malaysia, US$17,500 was granted to Teach for Malaysia, and Doctorabbit Indonesia received US$26,000 while, the Philippines’ The Mind Museum accepted US$50,000, and the Science Centre Singapore received US$35,000.

By forging partnerships with these local education champions, we were able to develop impactful programs that not only renew interest in STEM but also bring us closer to addressing education inequality.

If there’s anything we have learned about the future of science from SOSI, it’s that the tides are changing for the better. As responsible global citizens, it is our shared duty to ensure that science’s moment becomes long-lasting so we can create a more sustainable future.

By Kevin McGuigan.

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Science is the answer to pandemic, economic challenges

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
The coming budget must provide more for science not only to cater to the demands arising from the pandemic, but also to the new demands of the fast-changing business models of the economy.The coming budget must provide more for science not only to cater to the demands arising from the pandemic, but also to the new demands of the fast-changing business models of the economy.

LETTER: Covid-19 has attracted world attention to science, not just about the science for health, but also for supporting economic wellbeing.

Regrettably, we hear some lawmakers calling the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry insignificant when many problems, including fighting climate change — a major threat to our survival — are difficult to tackle without help from science.

Finding the cure to many of the world’s challenges would always fall back on science, applicable to both infectious and non-communicable diseases.

We have just heard from Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin how the country was strategising to procure the right vaccine once it is ready and proven, together with the Foreign Ministry. It has been estimated that the cost to acquire the vaccine can run into billions of ringgit.

Yet, some look down on the ministry as an unimportant one. No wonder all these years the allocation for science has been low. No wonder there is less debate on science issues in Parliament. This has to change.

The coming budget must provide more for science not only to cater to the demands arising from the pandemic, but also to the new demands of the fast-changing business models of the economy.

The need to embrace digitalisation has become more urgent. Again, it is about science and technology. We have been bombarded with news about the nation going digital and embracing Industry 4.0 technologies. Apart from the blueprints that were announced and launched, there has been no communication on how they will be implemented.

It is no secret that technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics, Internet of Things and automation will be the key drivers of businesses under the new normal. We cannot just depend on the import of such technologies.

We need our own experts in such areas not only to participate in the development of relevant technologies, but also to advise the industry and government on the right technology for acquisition, operation, maintenance and repair works.

We cannot forever wait for such services to be sourced externally every time we face breakdowns. This is where we need a Digital Technology Expert Centre (DTEC).

Apart from building expertise in the digitalisation space, the centre should also undertake R&D in technologies that support digitalisation, as well as provide the necessary guidelines on technology planning and acquisition to the industry.

DTEC should be initially government-funded and placed under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry. The DTEC council must be industry-driven, as does the chairman. Over time, with more businesses adopting digitalisation, there is no reason why DTEC cannot be fully financed by the industry itself.



Sustainable development is founded on science

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
Indeed, scientists have worked tirelessly to increase understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.Indeed, scientists have worked tirelessly to increase understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

THE Covid-19 pandemic looms large over this month’s United Nations General Assembly meetings and others worldwide, most of them taking place virtually. Yet, the drive to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) still commands the strong attention of political, government, business, academic and civil society leaders.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is a blueprint for shared prosperity in a world where all people can live productive, vibrant, and peaceful lives. In his recent Sustainable Development Report, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said some progress and favourable trends were evident in several critical areas.

For example, he reports, “extreme poverty has declined considerably, the under-five mortality rate fell by 49 per cent between 2000 and 2017, immunisations have saved millions of lives, and the vast majority of the world’s population now has access to electricity.

“Countries are taking concrete actions to protect our planet: marine protected areas have doubled since 2010; countries are working concertedly to address illegal fishing; 186 parties have ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, and almost all have communicated their first nationally determined contributions.”

Those along with several other accomplishments noted, Guterres’s report identifies many areas where urgent attention is needed, including the alarming rate of nature’s deterioration (citing the 2019 IPBES report finding that one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction), rising sea levels, and accelerating ocean acidification. And, the past four years “have been the warmest on record”.

Guterres notes “we know what works” and focused his report on areas that can drive progress across all 17 SDGs. A board of scientists advising the then UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon from 2013 to 2016 underlined the centrality of science to decision- making for sustainable development.

I was honoured to be among those scientists, who emphasised science, technology and innovation as the game changers in dealing with most of the most pressing global challenges, providing solutions to poverty, creating jobs, reducing inequalities, increasing incomes, and enhancing health and wellbeing.

Indeed, scientists have worked tirelessly to increase understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Research communities have convened across disciplines of geoscience, engineering, and social science to address questions at a system level, building first the foundation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It is knowledge that will determine the future of the human race. Science and engineering have advanced the efficiency of solar panels and wind turbines, and the capacity and durability of batteries, much faster than many predicted, raising hope where there was once pessimism, that the world may soon reduce its dependence on fossil fuels before it is too late.

What IPCC is to the climate issue, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is to the issue of accelerating nature and species loss. Both IPCC and IPBES are independent intergovernmental bodies established to strengthen the communication between scientists and policymakers.

Instituted eight years ago, IPBES reports have made their mark — from its 2016 assessment of declining bee and other pollinator species vital to the world’s food supply, to its 2018 assessments of global land degradation, and of biodiversity and ecosystem services across four world regions, to its Global Assessment Report last year.

Informed in large part by the IPBES assessments, a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is under negotiation by 197 parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The draft framework agreement includes a proposal to protect at least 30 per cent of the land and marine areas of the world by 2030. According to the Campaign for Nature, a major proponent of that proposal, 50 per cent may in fact be needed, but 30 per cent is a scientifically credible interim goal.

The impact of evidence-based knowledge assembled by bodies such as IPCC and IPBES should never be underestimated. I am immensely proud to note that IPBES is a contender for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. If chosen, IPBES would join IPCC on the list of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the latter having shared the award with former US vice-president Al Gore in 2007.

Whatever choice the Nobel committee announces a few days from now, it is a great honour for the biodiversity and nature-science community to be accorded recognition in the form of a well-earned nomination.

By Zakri Abdul Hamid.

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Rural revitalisation via innovation

Thursday, September 17th, 2020
The government must continually invest in enhancing rural infrastructure. PIC BY OMAR AHMADThe government must continually invest in enhancing rural infrastructure. PIC BY OMAR AHMAD

LETTERS: In Malaysia, rural residents make up 21.6 per cent of the population. Although the number is not that high, this population disproportionately faces poverty, malnutrition and low quality of life.

Promoting strategies and investments that support the revitalisation of rural areas is not only beneficial in creating a competitive and sustainable local economy, but also vital to the social viability of the nation.

Rural revitalisation in this age should go beyond agriculture. Create non-farm markets while making technology and innovation the cornerstones of rural economic growth.

Many programmes under the Rural Development Ministry have been initiated to improve the wellbeing of rural communities, such as the support programme for rural entrepreneurship, Program Sokongan Pengukuhan Keusahawanan Luar Bandar, which is a platform that supports entrepreneurs with financial aid and service-related training and products.

While the initiatives seem to be bearing fruit, rural areas are still struggling with the lack of opportunities for rural folk, forcing many to migrate to cities in hope of a better future.

This leads to another issue — urbanisation that could cause other problems, like insufficient space for building new houses, traffic congestion and urban crime. Data shows that in 2017, nearly 75 per cent of the country’s population lived in cities, with more than seven million people living in Kuala Lumpur.

As the growth is projected to continue, the revitalisation of rural areas is much needed to prevent rural people from migrating so that they can explore the potential of rural areas and maximise the rural economy. So what can be done to revitalise rural areas?

First, the government must continually invest in enhancing rural infrastructure by improving the efficiency and availability of clean water, stable Internet, electricity supply, as well as access to small grocery stores that sell healthy and nutritious food at affordable prices.

Improving rural mobility is essential so that rural folk can easily obtain their daily needs, access services like education, health and finance, reach markets, gain income and participate in social, political and community activities.

While investment in transport has been concentrated on upgrading infrastructure, it is essential to note that the government should also focus on enhancing the quality of public transport services. Apart from that, generating other sources of income in rural areas, such as through mining, service industries and e-commerce, is vital in ramping up the rural economy.

With regard to e-commerce, since this sector is blooming amid the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the right time to undertake an extensive effort to assist rural folk in venturing into this industry.

For example, the Perkhidmatan eDagang Setempat (PeDAS) initiative, launched by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry together with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, helps local entrepreneurs market their products online.

Practical strategies to rejuvenate this programme should be planned well to further expand its functionality in helping rural populations, particularly women, youth and indigenous people, to hone their skills in e-commerce.

The government may need to inject money into this programme, so necessary action could be taken, like expanding the number of one-stop centres, known as Pusat Internet Desa or Village Internet Centre, so that more people can get equal chance in grabbing this opportunity.

by Afifah Suhaimi.

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RM19.1 mln for Sabah projects under MOSTI

Friday, September 11th, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: A total of RM19.1 million has been channelled to fund various projects for Sabah under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).

MOSTI Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said between 2016 and 2020, through the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), various projects have been implemented under the Research, Pre-Commercialisation and Venture Capital Fund.

Among the projects implemented were through a close cooperation with local academic research teams at Universiti Malaysia Sabah or better known as UMS and other research development bodies.

“Recently, UMS is developing an International Collaboration Fund (ICF) project with RM230,500 fund from MOSTI to develop Virtual Reality Emotion Detection (VRED).

“The Faculty of Computer and Informatics UMS has been given the responsibility to develop this project, producing an effective immersive computing system through the adoption of electroencephalography (EEG), which is eye tracking and inertia detectors.”

Speaking at a press conference in conjunction with the Kembara Science, Technology, Innovation and Economics (STIE) programme at UMS yesterday, Khairy said the research could be potentially commercialised for health, education and gaming purposes.

“I myself have tried the prototype virtual reality headset that can detect individual emotions, whether they are feeling sad, happy, excited or scared through eye tracking and inertia detector.”

For educational purposes, Khairy said the system is able to see whether students are focused or not towards information taught.

“As for the health purpose … for example, stroke patients where they cannot express emotions but with rehabilitative therapy, we are able to know what their emotions are without having to act verbally,” he said, adding, “I congratulate UMS on its development in this research.”

Apart from that, MOSTI has also channelled RM13.5 million (2016-2020) for Sabah under the Malaysia Social Innovation Fund (MySI).

Khairy hopes to see more funding for the state included in the 12th Malaysia Plan.

He stressed that Sabah has great potential in the research and development industry.

Meanwhile, the STIE Programme highlights MOSTI initiatives such as the National Innovation and Technology Sandbox which provides facilities for product testing, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a real technology development environment.

A briefing on the Social Impact Match (SIM) grant was also held to support local social enterprises.


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Education Ministry: PPSMI will not be reintroduced

Thursday, July 16th, 2020
Senior Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin says the Education Ministry has no plan to reintroduce the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), which was abolished in 2011. - NST file picSenior Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin says the Education Ministry has no plan to reintroduce the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), which was abolished in 2011. – NST file pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has no plan to reintroduce the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), its minister, Dr Radzi Jidin, said today.

He was responding to a parliamentary question from William Leong (PKR-Selayang) on the reasons behind the (proposed) reintroduction of PPSMI; and the ministry’s plan to improve previous weaknesses.

“For your (Leong) information, the Education Ministry has no intention of reintroducing the PPSMI policy,” he said briefly in a written reply.

PPSMI was first introduced in 2003 during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as Prime Minister, but was abolished in 2011.

When Dr Mahathir was appointed as the seventh premier, he said a Cabinet committee had been formed to study the reintroduction of PPSMI, but he said a decision would be made based on the majority opinion of his then Cabinet.

On another matter, Radzi said the ministry is currently fine-tuning the teaching of Jawi script in vernacular schools.

“The ministry will again fine-tune the matter related to Jawi script (lessons) holistically,” he said in a parliamentary written reply to Steven Sim (DAP-Bukit Mertajam).

At the moment, Radzi said the government plans on continuing the previous administration’s decision on Aug 14, 2019, to reduce the Jawi script syllabus for Standard 4 pupils to three pages instead of the initial six.

The previous Cabinet had also decided that the lessons would be made optional and only taught if approved by parent-teacher associations, parents, and pupils.

The government initially planned to introduce six pages of Jawi calligraphy lessons in the Year Four Bahasa Malaysia textbooks beginning 2020, but this was met with criticism from Chinese and Tamil education groups.

By Arfa Yunus.

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Students win 3 categories in International STEM competition

Monday, July 6th, 2020
Seven Malaysian students from SMK Seri Bintang Utara have won three awards in an international STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) competition organised by the British International Education Associations (BIEA) on July 1. Seven Malaysian students from SMK Seri Bintang Utara have won three awards in an international STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) competition organised by the British International Education Associations (BIEA) on July 1.

KUALA LUMPUR: Seven Malaysian students from SMK Seri Bintang Utara have won three awards in an international STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) competition organised by the British International Education Associations (BIEA) on July 1.

The competition, 2020 BIEA International STEM Competition, which oversees around 2,000 participations from 50 countries, required its participants to create 3D machine-prototype to tackle the global plastic waste problems, starting from the sea-shores.

Speaking to the winners via Zoom-meeting recently, the happy students said they had worked days until nights on their prototypes.

The winner of the Best Report Awards, Alif Luqman Nasution, 16, said his invention aimed to collect at least 10 per cent of the plastic waste around the globe.

“10 per cent may seem like a small number, but on a global scale, 10 per cent is huge.

“My invention is theoretically small and I want it to be affordable to the public. Its height is about six inches and 12 inches long, which can collect two types of plastic waste, and it can move on land, mud and in water,” he said.

“When the results came in, I was over the moon. We have put everything into this competition. This win shows that we are doing our part, at least in contributing ideas to solve the global plastic waste issues,” he said.

Kow Hong Hiat, 16, alongside his teammates, Eeshwar Uthaya Kumar and Puteri Nur Atiqah Omar, who clinched the Best Video Award said it was a meaningful win for everybody.

“As we work on our project, we’ve gained a lot of experience and knowledge, especially on plastic waste and its harmful effects on human, marine life, animals and the environment.

“Our submitted prototype is an invention of a vehicle that can pick up plastic waste on land, mud and water, inspired by an ocean clean-up vehicle, Interceptor 002 but ours has robotic arms, infra-sensors, webcam, solar panels and rock wheels.

“The infra-sensors and webcam on the vehicle are used to detect the location and distance of plastic waste from the vehicle on land and mud. It will then help the vehicle to best position itself for its robotic arms to act as manipulator and picks up the waste,” he said.

The winners of Rising Star Awards, Ezrin Marissa Ramlan, 16, and her teammates Ejjaz Hakimi and Ryan Khoo said the dedication they’ve put into the competition has been part of a fun journey together.

Ejjaz said he felt relieved to see that all their hard work had paid off.

“We spent a lot of hours working on this project and to see it has paid off is really satisfying”.

For Ezrin Marissa said her team’s invention aimed to pick up plastic waste of any size.

“We want to ensure the machine can clean up all the plastic waste that lies on the shores. So, we put together many different components with individual functions.

“Some components, such as the vacuum, has additional filter to suck up plastics (buried) in the sand. And the filters are to ensure no other things will clog up the vaccuum.

“And we also put together a shovel that will handle larger pieces of plastic which the vacuum cannot pick up. All of these (different functions) will operate using the energy generated from the solar panel,” she said.

Teacher Lee Saw Im said she had resorted to problem-based learning in her Chemistry classes, as a way to raise awareness while teaching her students about plastic waste issues.

“Teachers play a very important roles in their students’ lives. We need to create opportunity and motivate them at all times.

“When I introduced the topic and told them about this competition, these students happily volunteered to participate. And I’ve also asked my former student, Ong Cheng Zhou to guide them through.

“When our country underwent the Movement Control Order (MCO), I was worried and I thought that we should pull out.

“However, some time in March, we received emails from the organiser, saying that they’ve decided to continue the competition vi

rtually. And when the results

came in, I screamed my lungs out! The coach and I were very proud of them,” she said.

Lee, who won the 2019 Global Teacher Award and Best Science Teacher at Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation Awards strongly believed such teaching method were important for the coming generation of students.

“It will give students the opportunity to explore their creativity, enhance their communication and problem-solving skills and also learning how to work effectively in collaboration.

“Through this approach, it can prepare our students to adapt to the Industrial Revolution 4.0,” she said.

By Farah Solhi.

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Renewed push for STEM

Monday, June 1st, 2020

THE Education Ministry is working to address the decline of interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects among students.

Youths, said its minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin, would otherwise lose out on the global stage, which is heavily based on scientific and technological advancement.

The ministry, he said, is aware of the rapid decline of interest year-on-year and is trying to address the issue.

“Education is a timeline, starting from primary, secondary to tertiary education.

“If the interest in STEM is not inculcated at an early age, starting from Year One or earlier, students’ choices will be affected when they choose their major, ” he said during a live television interview on May 11.In 2018,44% of students opted for the Science stream at secondary level, compared with 48% in 2012. At tertiary level, 570,858 (63%) of students majored in Arts and Humanities, Education, Social Sciences, Business and Law in 2017, compared with 334,742 (37%) who enrolled in Science, Math, Computers, Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction courses, StarEdu reported in February.

To promote STEM and instil a culture of innovation among students, RM11mil was allocated in Budget 2020 to implement joint initiatives by the Education and Science, Technology and Innovation (formerly the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry) Ministries, as outlined in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

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Early exposure to STEM degrees

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
Azhar Hazim Mohd Ubaidullah (left) testing a light bulb holder during a session on circuit testing at the 21st Century Electronics Bootcamp 2020 held at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

EXPOSURE to potential careers and university courses can help students decide on their field of interest and ease the transition into tertiary education.

The recent 21st Century Electronics Bootcamp 2020 held at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) served as a platform for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) leavers to gain key skills and knowledge that can prepare them for an engineering or a STEM degree.

Fourteen students from across the nation gained hands-on experience and technological know-how such as learning to use Arduino, a platform for building electronics projects.

BANGI 10 FEBRUARI 2020. Nur Ain Zulaikha Zamri (right) and her team member Raja Haikal Raja Arifshah presenting their smart house prototype to PKAS director Dr Kalaivani Chellappan (fifth from right) and UKM Engineering, Built Environment Faculty Undergraduates deputy dean Professor Ir Dr Siti Rozaimah (sixth from right) and visitors at the 21st Century Electronics Bootcamp 2020. NSTP/INTAN NUR ELLIANA ZAKARIA

Working in teams to tackle life problems using engineering principles, their ideas were translated into prototypes by the end of the programme.

Nur Ain Zulaikha Zamri, 18, who formerly studied at MRSM Bentong, said: “The most priceless experience that I had was learning about the Internet of things (IoT) and the Arduino software which expanded my design-thinking skills.

“I learnt about this software at school but it was just at surface level. The bootcamp taught me to code properly and how to design and assemble printed circuit boards (PCB) using applications like TraxMaker and CircuitMaker.”

For her group project, Nur Ain took part in creating a smart house prototype with smart lighting by applying the IoT principles.

“We equipped the prototype with a light-dependent resistance (LDR) sensor which was programmed to light up the house. Carrying out this project was eyeopening and it developed my interest in the electrical engineering field.”

In its second year, the month-long programme was spearheaded by the UKM Engineering and Built Environment Faculty’s Graduates Academic Competency Empowerment Programme (PKAS).

Participants were also able to tour research laboratories, architectural studios and other university facilities.

Nur Ain said she felt lucky to get a taste of student life at a top university.

“I gained university experience through our group projects and weekly presentations. I realised the value of STEM knowledge and how it can contribute to my personal development and nation building.”


Coming from a day school, Muhammad Imran Safwan Jeffiry, 18, said the programme opened up a new world of possibilities.

“I was exposed to various engineering disciplines such as chemical engineering. I also learnt how to code using Arduino.

“This bootcamp has helped me realise my interest in architecture and civil engineering,” said the SMK Malim, Melaka alumnus.

Azhar Hazim Mohd Ubaidullah, 18, who previously studied at MRSM Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan said the programme taught him about perseverance and the different engineering specialisations.

“For our project, I struggled initially to get the desired output. But I learnt to troubleshoot and find different ways to solve the problem.

“We visited each engineering department and were exposed to their syllabuscontents briefly. For example, in the civil engineering department, we saw how they process the materials to build structures,” he said.

Muhammad Imran added: “At the chemical engineering department, we learnt about the properties of organic compounds and how they are turned into products.”

On the same team, the two students came up with an Arduino-based passwordprotected door lock prototype.

Azhar Hazim said: “Users can lock and unlock their house doors remotely just by using a mobile application. A password is sent to the lock using the app. If the door is not closed properly, an LED light and alarm will go off.”

Who came up with the idea for the prototype?

“It was a team effort,” said Muhammad Imran.

“After designing the circuit, we conducted the PCB etching by immersing the board into an acid bath. Only the required copper traces were left behind. Then we connected the PCB and the lock system to the internet,” he said.

Azhar Hazim, who aspires to be a software engineer, added: “We also learnt to market our products using analytics and were able to put our knowledge into practice.”

The experience gained at the bootcamp has guided their decision on academic matters.

Alif Amaluddin, 19, Universiti Teknologi Mara mechanical engineering diploma student and 2019 bootcamp alumnus, said the programme helped him immensely.

“It exposed me to the engineering field. I could apply the coding skills that I learnt from the bootcamp in my studies.

“For example, in my Artificial Intelligence coursework, I am required to code to effectively train processors for deep learning,” said Alif.

Currently pursuing aBuilding Services Engineering diploma at Politeknik Shah Alam, Nor Elyas Norazmi, 19, said the intensive electronics curriculum allowed him to get a headstart in his studies.

“At last year’s bootcamp, I built a prototype where I used a PCB as a smoke detector. My current diploma programme includes a topic on fire detection systems. The invaluable knowledge that I gained from the bootcamp helped me to understand the topic easier.

“This bootcamp also introduces students to future study and career prospects,” said Nor Elyas.

Meanwhile, fellow alumnus and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia student Muhammad Arif Najmi Abdul Rahim, 19, decided to pursue actuarial science. However, he valued the network and guidance he gained from the bootcamp greatly.

“I was interested in physics and math and I was introduced to financial engineering, an engineering field that’s similar to actuarial science.

“I hope more students can join thisbootcamp. The knowledge can be shared on a larger scale,” he said.

PKAS director Dr Kalaivani Chellappan said 60 per cent of the bootcamp syllabus is based on electronics.

“This programme was developed by integrating aspects of design thinking, which is a pillar of Industry 4.0 and a combination of Google web and analytics applications.

“We use an interdisciplinary approach and experience-based learning pedagogy that will stimulate students’ interest to improve knowledge, skills andvalues.”

For this year, 125 applications were received from across the country, she said.

“While the programme is open to all SPM leavers, we have some criteria in place, namely, family background, academic achievement, financial status and psychometric assessment. Participants are fully funded by PKAS, except for accommodation, for the T20 community.”

Kalaivani added that research universities are the frontrunners in nurturing more knowledgeable citizens.

“I believe research universities need to build the interest and identify potential students in the field of research from the school level. This is important in facing Industry 4.0 or 5.0 challenges.

“Through this platform, we hope to generate more quality human capital, especially in the field of IoT, automation, healthcare, education and industrial security.”

by Rayyan Rafidi.

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