We have a STEM problem. It is predicted that 80% of jobs require a STEM background where only 10% of young women in school currently have an interest in Maths and Science. To add some controversy, careers in STEM pay almost double per hour than non-stem careers. We need to get our schoolgirls into STEM and MEDO has decided to address the issue by allowing them to design a satellite.
After partnering with big business in their Supplier and Enterprise Development programmes, MEDO identified that there is a considerable shortage of technical skills required to fulfil the technical needs of businesses in this country. With this in mind, and after much brainstorming and months of preparation, MEDO is pleased to announce an ambitious long-term project aimed at encouraging a desire among the youth to develop these skills at school level, thereby paving the way for more Learners to study further in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM. With these skills developed, smaller business and suppliers of the future will have a better chance at supplying big business and government with the technical skills and know-how required for growth.
In fact, in a Department of Higher Education and Training Government Gazette of 2014, it is stated that eight of the top 10 occupations where there is a skills scarcity in South Africa, are STEM related.
The Young Women in STEM programme – sponsored by Isuzu Trucks and in collaboration with Morehead State University in the USA, the worldwide leading institution and innovator of the nano satellite formats called CubeSat and PocketCubes – will focus on young women in high school, with the ultimate aim of these young women constructing the payload to be launched with Africa’s first ever private satellite. The launch is scheduled for Q2-Q3 2016.
The programme includes the following engagements:
SPACEPrep half-day workshops introducing young women to electronics and the basics of practical science. By the end of the day each participant has built and soldered their own Jiggy Bot – from scratch – that can be controlled in movement, light and sound.
SPACETrek week-long camps during school holidays during which the young women design their satellite payload experiments, and test them using high altitude weather balloons and radio communication. The camp attendees will be identified at the SPACEPrep workshops. Extended school holiday internships with MEDO to finalise payload designs and building the satellite for launch.
Judi Sandrock, CEO of MEDO says “The intention of this programme is not to be a once off – it is to be the start of at least a decade-long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields. On the 24th April 2015, Dr Azar Jammine of the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) is quoted in News24 as saying ‘in the 2014 matric results, just 7.6% passed maths with more than 60%, while 5.5% managed the same in physical science.’ In addition, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) – a cross-national study that measures mathematics and science achievement – tested 11 969 pupils in 285 South African schools in 2010 and 2011, and of the 48 countries that participated in TIMSS, South Africa came 47th for mathematics and 48th for science. Clearly there is work a lot of work to be done and we hope to spearhead this to ensure the technical skills business and government will need in the decades to come.”