WOU collaborates on new Science Centre

The Penang State Government is working with the Penang Science Cluster (PSC) to inspire interest in the learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by setting up science centres at different localities in the state.

The pilot initiative at Krystal Point led by Agilent Technologies became operational late last year. The centre holds science and technology-related activities as well as provides space for school kids or undergraduate students to undertake projects.

Brainstorming session at WOU.

Brainstorming session at WOU.

In a bid to provide more opportunities, the State Government intends to rent Wisma Yeap Chor Ee in Weld Quay for PSC to use as the Centre for Science Learning. Towards this end, Wawasan Education Foundation Deputy Chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap recently arranged a brainstorming session in Wawasan Open University to explore how WOU and DISTED College can work with PSC to make effective use of the over 3,000 sq feet of space at this centre and help provide content for various proposed activities there.

The brainstorming session held today was attended by, among others, WOU Board of Governors Chairman Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan, WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, DISTED President Dr Seah Soo Aun, and PSC’s Director Yoon Chon Leong and Chief Executive Officer Ooi Peng Ee.

Yoon (left) with Ooi(centre) in discussion with Prof Ho

Yoon (left) with Ooi(centre) in discussion with Prof Ho

Yoon said that the PSC, an industry-led initiative set up in 2009 with the support of the State Government, aims to address the lack of science, engineering and technology graduates to fulfil the professional needs in Penang. He said PSC is trying to work with universities to create finishing schools for graduates to be re-educated to align with the specialised needs of industry, and to insert industry input into the university curriculum.

He said the finishing school would meet short-term industry needs while the PSC strives to create “a growing pipeline” by creating interest in young children in science and engineering, who then could go on to take up these courses in the university.
It was generally agreed that several forms of collaboration at the centre are possible to address the demand for suitable, marketable graduates in science, technology and engineering in Penang.

Prof Dhanarajan (facing, 2nd from left) gestures as he offers his input.

Prof Dhanarajan (facing, 2nd from left) gestures as he offers his input.

A joint effort for the young students of DISTED to acquire practical experiential learning and for WOU graduates to pursue a finishing-school style of enrichment programme may be undertaken with the industry-led Cluster, said Prof Dhanarajan. “WOU can work with PSC and the Penang Skills Development Centre to create programmes that provide enrichment beyond the degree through a finishing-school, so as to quickly turn WOU graduates and working professionals into specialists with practical expertise,” he elaborated.

Following-up on Prof Dhanarajan’s proposal, Dr Seah suggested an ambassadorship programme where lecturers from DISTED or WOU can act as mentors to school students coming to the Centre. This would offer an opportunity for DISTED to create interest in its own programmes and brand itself, especially since PSC runs many workshops for secondary school students.
Pix 4: Dr Seah proposes for DISTED lecturers to come in as mentors.

Yoon also proposed for WOU to allow its students to run their projects at the new Science Centre, and this was welcomed by the WOU management. He said that PSC “can help link the project to industry needs” while companies can expose participating students of WOU to their entire supply chain in an internship arrangement.

A small working group is to be formed to further explore collaborative efforts between all parties to shape the new Science Centre at Wisma Yeap Chor Ee.