Fostering Solid STEM Foundations for Asia Pacific in 2012

Today’s society has evolved into an increasingly complex environment, propelled by technological advancements and a knowledge-driven economy. More than ever, a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is necessary in order to enable students to have the skills necessary to be the next generation of innovators that will fuel economic development and address the global challenges that we face.

In 2012, students from across the Asia Pacific region demonstrated their innovation and research skills by taking home many top honors at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) . This highly anticipated annual event provides a forum to inspire, recognize, and reward students who have a passion for STEM subjects. More than 1,500 young scientists were selected from 446 affiliate fairs in approximately 70 countries, regions and territories to compete at the 2012 event. More than 400 finalists received awards and prizes for their ground-breaking work.

This year, among the many winners from our region, Raghavendra Ramachanderan from India impressed the crowd to win the First Place Grand Award for Chemistry and the Glenn T. Seabord Nobel Trip Prize. His project on visible light deoxygenation applies sunlight as an energy source to deoxygenate alcohols, which means that it is possible to reuse half-burnt fuel using sunlight as a catalyst.

Not only did Raghavendra take home $5,000 to pursue his passion for science, the Intel Foundation also awarded a $1,000 grant to his school and to the affiliated fair he represented.

The next Intel ISEF is just months away, and schools around the region are already beginning to host their local science fairs, which will determine the candidates who take their projects at the global event in May.

In India, Initiative in Research and Innovation in Science 2012 recognized the ideas of young innovators in the country, and showcased their research-based projects in the categories of biology, chemistry, computer sciences, physics and mathematics.

Similarly provincial science fairs have already taken place across Pakistan to encourage inventions and new thinking amongst young students, leading them on the path to research and innovation.

These science fairs are designed to nurture curiosity and develop students’ problem-solving skills via project-based learning experiences. In today’s global environment, we feel it is essential to encourage originality of thought amongst students to enrich the quality of future human resource and build a pipeline of world class talent.

To help educators and policy makers prepare to meet this growing challenge, Intel recently joined hands with the Korean Foundation for the Advancement of Science & Creativity to host the Asia Science Educator Academy 2012 (ASEA 2012) event in Seoul, an annual platform for key policy makers and educators to share best practice and develop innovative curricula for STEM education in the region.

The event was attended by 56 passionate STEM policymakers, educators and supporters from 12 countries that shared their best education practices and conducted workshops on transformative curricula and content. Feedback from delegates included comments that “The way countries shared their STEM practices helped us to analyze and reflect on our own. It gave us a perspective of the future of STEM education.” The event was valued as a strategic platform for identifying common challenges and collaboration opportunities across the region.

The event planted the seed for future commitments to education in the region as 20 members from 10 countries volunteered their time to the ASEA Steering Committee. We also saw the kick-off of the online community for STEM educators as a platform to continue to enable knowledge sharing post-event.

Educators play a central role in helping to realise the visions discussed at the event. Through events like ASEA, and through professional development curricula, Intel is working to ensure that teachers have the means to incorporate twenty-first century methodologies into their teaching and are able to support students in their exploration of STEM subjects.

For more than a decade, the Intel Teach Program has helped K-12 teachers around the world to develop and implement creative programs that encourage active learning experiences such as project based learning, critical thinking and how to integrate technology into the classroom. In 2012 we built on top of this strong foundation with the Intel Educate Future Scientist program which provides science teachers with the skills to help prepare students for success in research and science fairs.

Each year, the caliber of research that emerges from Intel ISEF proves again the endless potential of young minds. This is what drives us to continue our efforts to build the capacity for STEM education across the Asia Pacific region to enrich the lives of children with opportunities to develop skills necessary to thrive in today’s knowledge economy.

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