Over the past few years, we have begun to detect a pattern of declining student interest for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-based be it in school and at the university level. This phenomenon will affect the ‘output’ of engineers, scientists, and doctors. Adding to this, it will also have implications for the specialist workforce, even thwarting efforts to achieve the status of a developed country. Industry players especially those involved in the industrial revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) have aware of this issue and creating concern among them. Effort has to be made and one of the ways to overcome this phenomenon is to diversify methods in conducting STEM-based experiments at the high school level by leveraging the experience and expertise of lecturers and graduate students at local universities.
In order to implement this effort, a group of lecturers and graduate students from the Faculty of Science, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Negeri Sembilan Branch (UiTMCNS) Malaysia have implemented a joint venture program with one of the high schools in the state, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seremban Jaya 2 (SMKSJ2) entitled “STEM Empowerment Program”. The main objective of this program is to guide students to carry out an experiment by hands-on experience. Besides that, this program is also focusing to enhance their skills in handling the experiments to prepare them to sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination practical papers.
In this program, the subject areas involved were Physics, Chemistry and Biology. For the Physics experiments, the students were performing two experiments: the free fall and thermodynamic. As for the Chemistry, the students have carried out copper electroplating and titration experiment. Last but not least, students have carried out experiments related to Biology in which they studied the effect of temperature on the activity of amylase enzymes and carried out cell division by mitosis. All experiments were successfully conducted with the guidance of professional facilitators from each field. On top of that, the students were given the opportunity to explore and conduct each experiment themselves. In this way, students can develop their passion in STEM and hopefully pursue their studies in the STEM fields. Apart from conducting experiments, the students were also guided on how to produce a good scientific report. These skills are very important to prepare them as future scientists and researchers in STEM fields.
The “STEM Empowerment Program” ended successfully and received amazing feedback from the students and their teachers. This kind of program provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for the student. It has made STEM activities fun and interesting which in turn helps the student to do much more than just learn.
It is hoped that more programs outside the school in collaboration with UiTM can be continued, especially for rural students who lack in terms of laboratory facilities and expertise. Together with the Malaysian government support toward the IR4.0 industry, this program can generate a positive impact to increase the student’s interest in STEM-based area and eventually prepares professionals who can transform society with innovation and sustainable solutions.