More than a fun ride

Students get a chance to go hands-on to learn the mechanics of a roller-coaster ride

During the June holidays, a group of 320 students visited the Universal Studios Singapore theme park.

But it was not just about riding on the roller coasters and having fun with their friends.

The lower secondary students from 13 schools, including Ang Mo Kio Secondary, CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) and Pathlight School, were there to study the mechanics of a theme park ride.

They learnt about the forces of flight and Newton's Laws, technological design and symmetry. For instance, they looked at how gravity, friction and air resistance are crucial factors in designing a thrilling ride.

The activity was part of a new enrichment programme by energy firm Chevron, which markets Caltex petroleum products, and Central Singapore Community Development Council. It aims to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), and encourage them to major in related fields in future.

After the theme park visit, the students divided themselves into groups of five to design and build their own model roller coaster, using a learning kit containing rubber tracks and balls acting as roller-coaster cars. They were guided by science and maths teachers from Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) and instructors from educational firm Duck Learning.

Mr Shahid Ahmed, a general manager at Chevron who oversees its products in Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, said: "(The) participants were exposed to Stem-related modules they would otherwise not have access to within the school curriculum." Students observed how they could apply what they had learnt in the classroom to the real world.

Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua said she noted that fewer people were interested in entering the Stem sectors, and decided to get the schools to join the programme "to introduce Stem subjects in a fun and interesting way that would be relevant to students".

"By helping them to discover areas of Stem in their everyday lives through learning journeys and hands-on workshops, we hope to spur them on to pursue Stem-related majors in future," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'More than a fun ride'. Print Edition | Subscribe