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Building a smart future at science festival

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects can be intimidating. Even for the brightest of minds, working out a mathematical equation or learning the periodic table for the first time can be mind-boggling.

But children and young people are natural scientists.

Numerous studies have shown that children engage in logic and scientific reasoning before they even enter a classroom. These young minds are curious to find out where rain comes from, and how fish breathe, for instance.

And they want to discover these answers on their own.

To encourage a range of personalities and talents in STEM, it is therefore vital that our science education makes these subjects relevant for our youngest citizens.

Government-funded initiatives such as Singapore Science Festival (SSF), the nation's largest and longest-running annual science event, can help us achieve this goal.

Children and young people are natural scientists. Numerous studies have shown that children engage in logic and scientific reasoning before they even enter a classroom. These young minds are curious to find out where rain comes from, and how fish breathe, for instance. And they want to discover these answers on their own.

At a grassroots level, the Maker Faire, the first event of SSF this year, aims to nurture Singapore's budding inventors and entrepreneurs of all ages, further promoting a diverse science and technology landscape.

But building a society that celebrates challengers and embraces new technology and sciences is also fundamental for a smart nation.

A 2015 study by Professor Shirley Ho and Assistant Professor Juliana Chan from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) found that while 75 per cent of Singaporeans think that science and technology is improving their lives, more preferred to be engaged in scientific developments by the Government (80 per cent) than by the science community directly (50 per cent).

This highlights that while there is a strong public interest in science and technology, the scientific community can do more to break down communication barriers.

It is crucial to improve this dialogue if we want a society that embraces Singapore's smart technologies - from riding in autonomous vehicles to parents who celebrate their inventive child's latest creation.

In celebration of Singapore's smart future, and to help parents and young people understand how they can play a role through STEM, the theme for this year's Singapore Science Festival will be Build Your Smart Future.

Jointly organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and Science Centre Singapore, Singaporeans can look forward to more than 30 activities taking place across Singapore until Aug 5.

•For more information visit the Festival Facebook page: www.facebook. com/singaporesciencefest

•Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng is chief executive of Science Centre Singapore and co-chairman of the SSF 2016 organising committee

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'Building a smart future at science festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe