This article is courtesy of our SANBio Student Ambassador for South Africa, Thokozani Sikhosana.
I had the most amazing time a couple of weeks ago, being part of a STEM Summer School that focused on Skills development for a Green Economy, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) being central to biosciences and green economy being relevant to the NEPAD agenda. The weeklong programme was organised by the Hochschule Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences in partnership with the GIZ and Ekurhuleni West TVET College. The pilot project that lasted for a week was organised for future recommendations of what I think are imperative programmes concerning the promotion of STEM to young people in communities throughout South Africa.
The University of Applied Science based in Germany was the main actor of this initiative which involved organising the main activities of the STEM week. The GIZ, the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation, have a shared goal to develop sustainable and effective solutions in diverse projects and programmes globally. GIZ supported all parties involved in the Summer School. The participants of the Summer School were students in different disciplines from Ekurhuleni West TVET College. Six German students, all studying industrial engineering, and six South African students with studies ranging from engineering to science and law facilitated the Summer School. This was done so that the participants could be guided in a peer-to-peer setting through the different activities.
The week comprised of technical experiments on renewable energy incorporating the relevance of STEM for industrial processes. Different days were dedicated to different concepts aimed at demonstrating the relevance of each concept and the transfer thereof from technology to industry. The different concepts included forces and statics, photovoltaics, wind power and informatics. Each concept was explained with a brief theoretical background as well as hands on experimental exercise. The students demonstrated statics by building bridges, solar cars were used to demonstrate photovoltaics, turbines for wind power, and informatics was demonstrated by designing codes for a programme.
The goal of the week was to equip participants with knowledge on the relevance of STEM for various products and production processes. The importance of accuracy in manufacturing for product quality and the significance of resource efficiency and profitability in design of technical solutions were two pivotal points. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of STEM knowledge for employment prospects. The visit to two companies in the motor industry gave all involved the opportunity to see the actual real-life applications of what was learnt in the daily experiments.
This project was a lot of fun for all parties involved, and the environment made learning easy with participants establishing some networks and relationships. Games and team building tasks allowed us to get to know one another and to promote working together. Cultural exchanges were encouraged through evening activities such as the German culture evening and a South African cultural dinner experience.
The week allowed me to realise what a difference similar projects to this one, in the different disciplines under STEM, could make in communities where STEM subjects are discouraged. The necessity of STEM promotion can be seen in this age where most solutions to some of the biggest challenges in Africa lie in Science.
#STEM #STEM2017 #SUMMERSCHOOL we did it, leant it and gained it!