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‘Fun with STEM’ Outreach Program 2023

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IEEE Photonics Society Malaysia Chapter

STEM outreach initiatives for high school students are becoming more and more necessary as a result of the STEM workforce shortage. On 22nd August 2023, the IEEE Photonics Society Malaysia Chapter held the ‘Fun with STEM’ outreach program organized in collaboration with OPTICA Student Chapter Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Electrical & Electronic Engineering Student Council (ELESCO) Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM). The program’s main goals were to encourage high school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to help them fall in love with STEM. This will encourage them to pursue studies in a STEM-related field of work. The program also aims to encourage high school students, instructors, and the public to understand and appreciate the STEM fields of chemistry, computer science, engineering, and mathematics. The event was held at the main hall of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama Putrajaya (SMAPUTRA), a National Secondary School in Malaysia. The program was attended by 90 secondary students and assisted by a total of 27 volunteers acting as facilitators. 

The program began with the officiation by the School Senior Administrative, Ms. Yusmahida Osman, followed by a welcoming speech and introduction to IEEE by the Chair of IEEE Photonics Malaysia Society Chapter, Dr. Barirah Ahmad Anas. A sharing session on light phenomena in daily life and its application was presented by Dr. Zuraidah Zan. 

Students were divided into 12 groups and were tasked with completing all 14 booths prepared. At each booth, facilitators would explain the fundamental concept of the booth activity and students would answer questions prepared on the booth worksheet. To gain a complete understanding of each booth activity, students were encouraged to interact with the facilitators and ask questions. Based on the completed worksheets and activities, facilitators would then assign marks to the team. After completing all the booths, students would hand in their STEM Booth Checklist to the facilitator and fill out a survey form to communicate how they felt about the program. Finally, the group with the highest marks received goody bags sponsored by The IEEE Photonics Society Malaysia Chapter. 

From the survey forms, students expressed that they preferred the explanation to be in two languages; English and Malaysian language. They also found the science-based activities and the side-quest to complete all the booths to be very exciting and wished to see more programs of such nature. It is hoped that the program is sufficiently impactful to steer the students’ interest towards STEM when they eventually pursue their higher education. The long-term impact can only be evaluated at least two years from now, and the IEEE Photonics Society is looking forward to continuing the program each year with the same school.