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STEMulator seeks to get more schoolgoing children interested in STEM careers

30th June 2020 BY: Marleny Arnoldi
Creamer Media Online Writer

Visual education platform STEMulator has embarked on a campaign to create awareness of its offering and inviting contributors to the platform either to enhance its content or to help take the platform further to schools in South Africa.

STEMulator is a knowledge portal concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) material; it is an initiative of the National Scientific and Technical Forum of South Africa.

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The platform was due to be officially launched early in July.

STEMulator aims to get more school-going learners interested and engaged in STEM subjects and, ultimately, careers, especially those learners in rural areas that are often not exposed to this “hidden world”.

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STEMulator chief instigator Richard Gundersen plans for the platform to be introduced to schools throughout South Africa on memory sticks and routers, while being also being available on the Internet as an interactive website.

The platform was launched in January and STEMulator is approaching individuals and organisations with similar aspirations to take the project forward. 

The opening screen of the platform is a landscape with ten “zones” inviting the explorer to select clickable objects linked to various fields of interest.

Clicking on an object reveals a next level of detail. For example, the car unpacks into elements like the engine, brakes, exhaust, fuel tank and tyres.

Selecting any of these elements will reveal more detailed and animated information about the component, as well as information about the different fields of study and careers relating to that component.

Some of the other zones on the landscape – so far – include the human body, a farm, hospital, house and a power station, which all reveal the “inner workings” of these places and objects.

“The Internet can be noisy. Good material is often short-lived and swamped. We want to provide an organised platform, a virtual world, where this visual content will stimulate a curious mind,” notes Gundersen.

STEMulator’s campaign has started with three prongs: contacts, content and contributions. The team running the platform is focusing on spreading the word and creating awareness.

STEMulator is a registered nonprofit company so donations can be tax efficient and will soon have accreditation, so that donators can receive credits for educational initiatives, skills development and corporate social investment.

Gundersen explains that, with the right contributors, the platform can go so far as to use analytics to determine what particular zones learners visited and for how long. This can be used to assess children’s interest − a psychometric test of sorts.

The platform can also be sponsored, for example, by a car manufacturer, which can then provide more content in the auto shop section of the platform’s landscape. The opportunities for collaboration can stretch across any industry and process within that industry.

Gundersen aims for the platform to not only be distributed to school learners in remote areas on memory sticks, but to also have it pre-loaded on a router that can be used in other schools to access the content.

This content can include chemistry videos with experiments that teachers can show to learners in class; this opens up the opportunity for more experiments to be shown, beyond the scope of what can be done in a classroom.

Gundersen explains that it is possible for STEMulator to expand its offering to make “corridors” for school grades, with the relevant curriculum material for that particular grade, offering videos and other forms of content related to STEM subjects, including on our solar system, global warming and biology.

Gundersen says STEMulator envisions to stimulate children to realise the wonderful careers out there in the STEM discipline.

“The only way we can do that is to give them a playground to explore in. We are providing a home for good content, content that reveals our hidden world.” 

EDITED BY: Chanel de Bruyn Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online
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