Eighty-four youngsters now have certificates to show they graduated from a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) summer camp hosted by Tobago Information Technology Ltd.
Addressing the graduates during a ceremony at the company's’s conference room in Signal Hill on August 30, assistant secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary, Marisha Osmond,delivering the feature address, said if young people are exposed to STEM and given opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, they have and will develop passion.
“STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables the next generation of innovators.
“To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students like yourself need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past. STEM education helps to bridge ethnic and gender gaps sometimes found in math and science fields. In order to compete in a global economy, STEM education and careers must become priority,” Osmond said.
She said through the company, the division will continue support of the STEM programme.
“Our role is to energise you and help you discover and develop your innovation pathway.”
Chief Secretary and Secretary of Education, Innovation and Energy Kelvin Charles said he was particularly happy at the number of participants, as he commended their parents.
“If you did not provide the resources – because it was not a free programme – your children would not have been able to participate in this activity. So I must applaud you – the parents. This kind of support for your children ought to continue. The research has shown that students who have the support of their parents usually do better in school than students who don’t."
He said different skillsets needed to be appreciated, and people were no longer only considered talented if they could become a doctor, a teacher or a pilot.
"You have exceptional artistes, you have exceptional artists, you have exceptional sportsmen, you have exceptional artisan – those are carpenters, masons and so on – and I am saying these are all skillsets that we have to applaud, because the truth be told, for us to develop this island of Tobago, we have to pull everybody on board and we have to ensure that all these skillsets are available to us if we really want to develop the island.”
Tobago Information Technology CEO Ruth Campbell said the camp saw representation from 16 primary schools and eight secondary schools.
She said one of the best investments that can be made in a child’s life is high-quality early education.
“I believe that we all have our part to play in the education process in transforming how we see certain subjects. Mathematics, chemistry, physics and information technology are among the subjects that are often categorised as being difficult. Children grow up hearing this as adults complain about how hard these subjects are. They in turn may just develop a mental block towards them.
“As adults, we have an obligation to the future generation to encourage learning in a way where our children associate words and subjects such as 'fun' and 'enjoyable' to these subjects. I believe that the key of achieving this mindset is by encouraging and rewarding curiosity in our children,” she said, adding that it is through curiosity and the need to find answers that questions are asked, solutions made, and new technologies are developed.
The goal of the programme, Campbell said, was to introduce participants to STEM through a curriculum that encouraged and rewarded the children’s curiosity.
The STEM camp ran from July 8-August 30 and was broken into four cycles. The activities included robotics, programming, geographic information systems, and an experiment with drone technology. Each cycle ran for two weeks in two age groups: eight-11 and 12-15. The eight-11 age group was accommodated in the morning periods, and the afternoon sessions were for the older ones.