Technology is an integral part of all industries today. As a result background in STEM is often seen as an important component when it comes to advancing your career. Today, automation continues to take over jobs in industries. This essentially pushes the next generation of workers to engage in high paying careers that require high-level skills.
In an exponentially changing world in which success demands creativity and innovation, the traditional education system of which “learning” is “rote memorization”, is replacing gradually with the availability of resources at a simple click. However, innovation is still not a valued learning objective in most local schools today.
Enter, STEMUp Educational Foundation
This is where the “STEMUp Educational Foundation” comes to light. The initiative aims to inspire and encourage the students to pursue STEM degrees and careers. Why? To encourage the younger generation to become innovators and problem-solvers, as opposed to becoming just consumers.
The nonprofit organization serves the community across a wide span, offering most of the educational opportunities and resources free of charge.
To date, STEMUp Educational Foundation has launched over 250 awareness sessions, catering to more than 15,000 children island-wide. These sessions included mini hackathons, hands-on training, and teacher and volunteer training. This was made possible thanks to partnerships with the likes of CoderDojo Foundation, Raspberry Pi Foundation, Scratch Foundation, IRIM Croatian Makers, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Classroom Publications Limited, Rotary Club Zagreb Centre, Code.org and Brooke Church of England Primary School internationally, and Sri Lanka Telecom and Commercial Bank of Ceylon locally.
In a bid to become the national model for passionate STEM education support, STEMUp started its journey joining hands with the “Micro:bit Education Foundation”. With this, the Micro:bit Sri Lanka User Group was born. This group essentially looks to sharpen kids’ programming capabilities and empower the student community in Sri Lanka.
Thus far, with the support of hundreds of registered volunteers, STEMUp has been able to localize more than ten global platforms to Sinhala and Tamil languages.
Instead of a traditional kick-start of holding the introductory session in Colombo, STEMUp Foundation held its first awareness session, an hour of coding for school children at Udubaddawa. This is a rural village in Kuliyapitiya. Following which, the initiative focused it’s efforts on students, ranging from 11-year-olds to undergraduates. STEMUp foundation’s efforts with Micro:bit included conducting awareness sessions, hosting ideation competitions, providing support to Micro:bit user groups abroad, and even distributing free Micro:bit devices.
As recognition for the service rendered, Micro:bit Sri Lanka User Group was presented with a special award by the mother organization, Micro:bit Education Foundation, as the first official Micro:bit community organization in the world.
CoderDojo Sri Lanka by STEMUp foundation is a part of the CoderDojo global movement of free and open coding clubs (Dojos). CoderDojo is for anyone aged 7 to 17 years. It aims to prepare the next generation of programmers to tackle the prevalent shortage of good developers and programmers. CoderDojo Sri Lanka is currently operating over twenty locations islandwide, a result of team STEMUp’s training programs to the trainers on physical computing such as Micro:bit, Arduino, and coding. This allows the trainers to carry on the CoderDojo sessions in their centers parallel to the on-going programs.
As a STEMUp initiative, CoderDojo Sri Lanka officially launched the program here in Sri Lanka at the Colombo Public Library. Apart from running Dojos in IT centers and libraries, STEMUp joined hands with Sri Lanka Telecom and initiated Dojos at SLT training centers and regional offices islandwide.
In addition to the foundation’s efforts with Micro:bit and CoderDojo, STEMUp has also initiated a program called Machine Learning for Kids. Partnering up with MillenniumIT, this program looks to create awareness and educate kids about machine learning in the modern environment.
STEMUp Volunteer Summit 2019
As of today, there are more than 600 volunteers serving the Micro:bit, Arduino, Scratch, and App Inventor squads. STEMUp Volunteer Summit 2019 is the inaugural awards ceremony of the STEMUp Educational Foundation dedicated to appreciating the service rendered by our promising volunteers. The ceremony also serves as awareness to the general public of the organization’s programs.
On Saturday, 24th of August, 2019, the first STEMUp Volunteer Summit was held in the main auditorium at Sri Lanka Telecom head office. The event commenced with the lighting of the oil lamp, with the audience warmly welcomed by Indika Aruna Dalugama on behalf of the STEMUp foundation, and by Mr. Ruwan Rekogamaon on behalf of Sri Lanka Telecom.
A panel discussion chaired by the STEMUp director board was held where the discussion revolved around STEMUp’s operations and its subsidiary programs. Next, Peter D’Almeida, Founder of N-able, conducted an interactive keynote session focusing on the value of volunteering, the importance of creativity and the need to push past the narrow boundaries that confine our personal, professional and political lives. He went on to urge the audience to think differently about the future, their own as well as of the nation.
Following Peter’s session, Ruwan Recogama, Engineer Product Development at Sri Lanka Telecom, shared some of SLT’s initiatives in the IoT space. Finally, the Most Valuable Volunteer Award presentation took the limelight. Here, six promising volunteers Ravindu Perera, Dulan Wikumpriya, Hansa Tharuka, Santhusa Jayathilaka, Dinushka Fernando, Chanuka Wijesundara, Vidura Dhanajaya were accredited with the Most Valuable Volunteer of the year 2019/20 award. The best volunteers of each month were also awarded certificates of appreciation and complimentary gifts from SLT.
Following the Q&A session hosted by SLT, STEMUp Volunteer Summit 2019 came to an end with the closing remarks by the Directors Prabhath Mannapperuma and Shameera Prajapriya.