Benedict Lopez describes how this group is making science fun and exciting for children and encouraging them to showcase their inventions to the world.
Science provides a critical base for any country, with the influence of information and communications technology advancing the world in different areas.
Science can solve problems in many areas of our daily lives – from food, to energy, to medicine, transport and even leisure. Society recognises the pivotal role science plays as a key driver in improving people’s quality of life.
Two Malaysians, Partiban Kunasekaran and Shanmuganathan S Romanazan, have taken this a step further. In 2010 they formed a company, Young Scientists Sdn Bhd to promote science among young Malaysians. The company, based in Puchong, Selangor, provides a platform for young children to explore science and its benefits in everyday life.
The programme was the brainchild of Partiban, who devised the overall programme structure.
From its humble beginning with one class in Puchong, the centre today has expanded to over 30 classes in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru. The company has spent more than RM500,000 on programmes, training and participation in competitions. Students pay a small fee for being part of the programme.
A team of young professionals trains participants in electronics, mechanical studies, IT, chemistry and biology. Though specialists in different areas, they share a common aim: teaching the young the fundamentals of science and enhancing their creative thinking and ability to innovate.
The team works together with a board of advisors to design and execute experiments. Many of the “young scientists” in the programme have excelled with some winning international awards.
What motivated the two founders to start this project?
“We want our next generation to enjoy learning science and apply it in their daily lives,” says Shanmugathan. “We are at the critical path where our children need to be the future inventors and innovators and not just consumers of technologies.”
Besides exploring the world of science, the young scientists are also involved in other activities.
Nature guides expose the children to Malaysia’s natural heritage so they learn to appreciate our biodiversity. The goal is to create a generation with a passion for conserving this biodiversity.
A National Young Scientists Convention was held in collaboration with a local university in 2017. This three-day convention provided a platform for schoolchildren to present their research in physics, chemistry and biology. It helped to unearth hidden talents among Malaysian children. Professionals then guide gifted candidates and encouraged them to take part in international scientific events.
A roadshow promotes scientific awareness to schoolchildren nationwide, especially in rural areas. It was funded through a corporate social responsiblity programme and carried out by Young Scientists, according to the needs of the sponsor. Designed to expose children to science in a fun way, the programme offers hands-on experience of science activities for children aged six and above and introduces them to chemistry, physics, biology and space studies.
Road to Stockholm
The Young Scientists programme aims to equip the younger generation with the fundamentals of science while encouraging creative thinking so that they may become future innovators.
The vision is to produce world-class researchers and inventors who will improve the people’s quality of life. It also aims to inspire Malaysian children to one day win a Nobel Prize in Stockholm.
Apart from science activities, the programme also trains and encourages children to take part in various competitions and exhibitions held in Malaysia and abroad.
Since 2015, the children have showcased their work in a host of Malaysian, regional and international inventors and innovators competitions and exhibitions, winning gold and silver medals in the process. Among the competitions they have taken part in are the Malaysia Young Inventors Competition, the Asian Young Inventors Competition and the World Young Inventors Competition.
Their award-winning inventions include:
- a solar-powered aquaponics system
- computer-aided physiotherapy for disabled children
- Vermicompost Bin 4-All
- Cargo Meal Version 2.0 for children with diabetes or obesity
- 3-in-1 Fast Cleaner
- Life Saver
- Motorised Whiteboard Cleaner
- My Soil, My Plant
Last year, the children won a gold medal and a special inventors award at iCAN 2018, Canada for their “Vermicompost Bin 4-All”.
In May, the Young Scientists team bagged 12 gold medals, 12 silvers and a bronze and two best invention awards at the World Young Inventors Exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur. Some 400 teams took part.
To date, only Tenaga Nasional has sponsored some of these young scientists. Hopefully, more sponsors will come forward to support Malaysia’s aspiring scientists.
For further details on the Young Scientists, check out their website at www.youngscientists.com.my