Exclusive Interview with Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore on the new launch, UNTAME and the transformation of STEM to STEAM education

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Science Centre Singapore (SCS) has launched UNTAME, a suite of blended learning digital-first events aimed at encouraging the young and young at heart to rediscover the wonders of Science in the new normal.

Our Parenting World – OPW Media team spoke to Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore where he will share more about Science Centre Singapore’s new launch UNTAME, on the transformation of STEM to STEAM education and more.  

Exclusive interview with Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore

1. Can you share with us more about the series of blended learning digital-first events that Science Centre Singapore will be launching in October known as UNTAME?

A/Prof Lim: UNTAME is a suite of blended learning, digital-first events born out of Science Centre Singapore’s ambition to redefine guest experiences in view of the pandemic, built on a topic that is more important than ever before – STEM. Harnessing a multi-dimensional approach to spark curiosity and self-learning both on-ground and online, UNTAME is an effort to encourage the young and young at heart to rediscover the wonders of Science and its related disciplines in the new normal.

The UNTAME series spans three immersive, cross-platform events which runs from October to November, primed to fuel a fun and meaningful discovery of pivotal 21st century Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and how they interface with Arts and Humanities. The learning journey commences with the second STEAM Festival for Young Learners, followed by a STEM Conference for educators and industry professionals, and finally, culminate with UNTAME: Beyond Boundaries, an inaugural STEM-based virtual festival for the whole family. Each of these events are targeted at a different audience segment, to empower the exploration of STEM across age groups in a novel way.

2. Why is it called UNTAME? Any significance to the name?

A/Prof Lim: The series was named UNTAME as a call to action for people of all ages to be bold in their discovery of STEM and its related disciplines. The field of STEM has always been perceived as intimidating, perhaps perpetuated by stereotypes of intense lab work or hardcore coding. While certain aspects of STEM do indeed embody these activities, it is so much more. STEM underpins a host of industries, including healthcare, architecture, aviation, manufacturing, food production and even entertainment, such that it is impossible to live without. With UNTAME, we hope to break down the barriers of this seemingly remote field, introducing the more approachable topics of arts and humanities into the mix, to encourage an uninhibited exploration of STEM through hands-on workshops for kids, conferences for educators and gamified content for the whole family. Whether you’re five or 50, there is tremendous value in uncovering STEM, to learn how it contributes to your life, and even how you can contribute to its evolution. 

3. We know that STEM skills are about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, why is it important to incorporate STEM disciplines for personal and national development?

A/Prof Lim: The disciplines of STEM are undeniable drivers of our economy. Take the recent pandemic for example – while the rest of the world experienced a standstill, discoveries and innovations in STEM continued by leaps and bounds to help safeguard and improve lives. From safety scanners to home edutainment systems, STEM skills have effectively empowered the progress of society where everything else hit the pause button. 

As the world evolves into a more tech-driven and innovation-dependent world, it is important for children to be equipped with STEAM-related skills that would give them an edge in the workforce. In addition to seeking a career in industries related to science, technology, and design in the long term, learning STEAM disciplines also instils life skills from a young age, such as figuring out their own formula to finding solutions for problems big and small.

4. There has been an increasing awareness to introduce STEAM movement in education today, how is STEAM different from STEM and what are the key benefits of STEAM for young learners?

A/Prof Lim: STEAM is simply the inclusion of one element – the Arts – into STEM. This movement champions a more unified multidisciplinary approach to education, which encourages people to think more broadly about the world around us. It is technology married with arts, and in a comprehensive STEAM curriculum, you’ll see that both the left (analytical thinking) and right (imaginative thinking) brain functions are engaged to foster imagination, innovation and collaboration.

With the inclusion of the Arts, STEM is made more approachable to kids and even more enjoyable, effective and meaningful to learn. Children are natural scientists and artists – they are curious about how the world works and they enjoy tinkering. While not every child will grow up to become a scientist, engineer, or designer, it is important for every child to grow up knowing how to think like one and STEAM learning fosters just that – to encourage children to exercise their natural curiosity, engage their senses and cultivate their ability to approach the future with a creative problem-solving mentality.

5. How can we embrace and encourage STEAM activities at home?

A/Prof Lim: STEAM is a part of everyday life, so a simple and natural way to encourage STEAM learning at home is to look for opportunities in your daily activities. For instance, on a trip to the playground, ask your child why they think the sky is blue, or when baking together, ask them why they think bread rises. This gives parents an opportunity to encourage their children to observe and appreciate the beautiful designs and colourful patterns in nature, especially in the diversity of plants and animals.

STEAM can also be cultivated through sensory play time. To name a few examples, this could be in the form of pretend-play, where you can encourage your child to put on some costumes and music and use their imagination to create fun, or exploratory play, through the form of art projects or science experiments, to empower children to get curious, to take things apart and to put them back together.

Finally, always encourage your child to get curious, ask questions and express his or feelings. Talking about anything and everything that help them go through the process of sense-making, which in turn helps with problem solving skills and also information retention.

6. Lastly, what can parents and children look forward to when they visit Science Centre Singapore from October to December? Any key activities and events that you would like to highlight?

A/Prof Lim: Apart from our UNTAME suite of initiatives, Science Centre Singapore will continue to re-introduce exhibitions and programmes in line with safety measures. From now to the end of the year, we have our fan-favourite exhibitions like Phobia²: The Science of Fear, Future Makers and Know Your Poo all ready for guests to explore, and we’ve also built new pop-up booths that function as ad-hoc exhibition spaces. Among these is a new interactive dataset on the Coronavirus, which sheds light on the science behind the virus.  At Snow City, we’ve also introduced the Winter Shooting Arena – a sub-zero facility for guests aged 14 and above to put their marksmanship to the test in a fun and exhilarating snow field.

Aside from new initiatives, we are also forging ahead with signature collaborations like the Sony Creative Science Awards, an annual toy-making competition to inspire creativity and innovation amongst primary school students, and also our Young Scientist Badge programme to encourage active self-learning. Our most recent addition to the suite of badges to be earned is the ‘I Am A Young Sustainability Champion’ badge, which was launched in collaboration with the Temasek Foundation to encourage young learners to learn more about renewable energy and responsible food consumption.

Thank you Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng for taking our interview!

SCS’ suite of STEM initiatives will unfold in stages through the following events:

KidsSTOP™ STEAM Festival for Young Learners – 8 to 11 October 2020
SCS’ second annual STEAM Festival, organised by KidsSTOP™, is a four-day event that seeks to showcase creative approaches to STEAM-based teaching and learning with a host of educational and sensorial play-based experiences for children.

Open to public on-ground from 8 to 11 October, and online from 9 to 11 October via timed sessions, the event aims to foster a better understanding of early childhood education as we embrace current methodologies and its transformation powered by STEAM.

STEAM Festival Foosball Maker Kit

At the Centre, children, parents and educators are welcome to experience a sensory trail, science performances, STEAM-based workshops and hands-on activities, including a coding mission for young learners. Guests participating from the comfort of home can get their hands-on STEAM kits and engage in creative-making via demo videos, access a collection of STEAM resources, indulge in parent-child bonding through a slew of participatory performances with downloadable pre-session craft materials, and even engage with industry experts through vodcasts where they share about the power of STEAM in nurturing creativity. To find out more and to purchase the tickets, please go to https://www.gevme.com/steamfest

STEM Conference 2020 5 – 6 November 2020
STEM Conference 2020 is an influential two-day virtual event that targets educators and professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to drive inspiring conversations and breakthrough discoveries on STEM education and outreach.

Themed, “Learning without boundaries with STEM: Engaging in Exploration”, the conference expects to engage over 200 STEM professionals in keynote speeches, parallel sessions and workshops on understanding and transforming the application of STEM knowledge and skills in
the classroom and workplace.

Some of the best and brightest changemakers joining the stirring line-up of local and international
speakers at the event include:
• Dr. Christine M. Cunningham, Professor of Education and Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University.
• Dr. Stuart Kohlhagen, The Science Nomad Director, Science and Learning at Kellyware Pty Ltd
• Assoc Prof Teo Tang Wee, National Sciences & Science Education (NSSE) at the National Institute of Education
• Ms Chua Shi Qian, Senior Assistant Director, Sciences Branch, Curriculum Planning & Development Division 1 at the Ministry of Education.

The digital event will also feature a tradeshow that will facilitate networking with exhibitors and delegates.

UNTAME: Beyond Boundaries – 19 October – 29 November 2020
Presenting UNTAME: Beyond Boundaries. Every day, people are using science, technology, engineering and mathematics to break technological, geographical, cultural, content and social boundaries. Get a feel of how this is done at UNTAME: Beyond Boundaries, an inaugural STEM-themed virtual experience by SCS.

Facilitated through a gamified approach, step into a virtual arena to be part of hands-on, exploratory quests to explore the realms of Space, Mind and Food. Gain points in the process, and compete and collaborate with friends to complete STEM challenges. Participants will be entertained by virtual performances and unframed conversations with unique personalities from
interdisciplinary frontiers of Science and Technology and Science and Art.

In addition, the Virtual Experience will be launched on 19 October 2020, and the on-site 2.5-hour workshops will be held between 21-29 November 2020 (morning & afternoon slots on weekdays & weekends). UNTAME: Beyond Boundaries online activities will end on 29 November 2020. (Details from Science Centre Singapore’s website) 

What is included in UNTAME: Beyond Boundaries?

UNTAME PASS ($80) – For 10 years old and up
An on-site mystery experience filled with interactive activities guided by our experts and take-home materials (worth more than $80) to complement your unique online learning journey. This workshop will take ~2.5 hours and held between 21 to 29 November with morning & afternoon weekday & weekend slots. You will be able to select a date on the online platform in early November after you complete 3 activities.
* Science Centre Singapore reserves the rights to make the amendments to the mystery experiences where necessary.

WILD kit

All the images credit to Science Centre Singapore

WILD PASS ($75)
(Inclusive of premium online activities + WILD kit)
Wild kit contains quadcopter drone, micro:bit, metal puzzle, cardboard VR viewer, DIY constellation kit, Makey Makey, etc.

MILD PASS ($30)
(Inclusive of premium online activities + MILD kit)
Mild kit contains cardboard VR viewer, DIY constellation kit, Makey Makey, etc.

TAME PASS (free)
Register now to get a special Early bird invite to access on 10 October 2020 for the free Virtual Experience. This programme will be official launched on 19 October 2020, and anyone can register for their free account to try the activities between 19 October and 29 November 2020.

For a full UNTAME experience, please purchase both WILD & UNTAME PASSES. You will receive the advanced STEM kit in October, and attend the specially curated workshop in November. There are limited numbers for the passes, availability is on a first come first served basis.

Find out more about the UNTAME event at: http://www.science.edu.sg/untame.

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