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Malaysian students get early exposure to STEM subjects

Image Credits: New Strait Times, Article

Exposure to potential careers and university courses enables students to 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 a platform for building electronics projects.

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

One student stated that the most priceless experience that he had was learning about the Internet of things (IoT) and the Arduino software which expanded my design-thinking skills.

The boot camp taught him to code properly and how to design and assemble printed circuit boards (PCB) using applications like TraxMaker and CircuitMaker.

Another student took part in creating a smart house prototype with smart lighting by applying the IoT principles. Her team equipped the prototype with a light-dependent resistance (LDR) sensor which was programmed to light up the house. Carrying out this project was eye-opening 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.

Students gained university experience through group projects and weekly presentations, realising the value of STEM knowledge and how it can contribute to personal development and nation-building.

One student, currently pursuing aBuilding Services Engineering diploma at Politeknik Shah Alam stated that the intensive electronics curriculum allowed him to get a head-start in his studies.

At last year’s boot camp, he built a prototype using a PCB as a smoke detector. His current diploma programme includes a topic on fire detection systems. The invaluable knowledge gained from the boot camp helped the student to understand the topic easier.

It was noted that the boot camp also introduces students to future study and career prospects.

Meanwhile, fellow alumnus and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia student, who decided to pursue actuarial science, stated that he valued the network and guidance he gained from the boot camp greatly.

The Director of the programme noted that said 60 per cent of the boot camp syllabus is based on electronics. It 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.

The design uses an interdisciplinary approach and experience-based learning pedagogy that will stimulate students’ interest to improve knowledge, skills and values. This year, 125 applications were received from across the country.

While the programme is open to all SPM leavers, there are 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.

It was noted that the research universities are the frontrunners in nurturing more knowledgeable citizens.

Research universities need to build 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, it is hoped that more quality human capital, especially in the field of IoT, automation, healthcare, education and industrial security, can be developed.

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