Saturday 12 December 2015

National Science Experiment: Bringing science alive for students

43,000 take part in big-scale experiment to spur them to start their own projects
By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 11 Dec 2015

It is the largest-scale experiment here and aims to enlist 250,000 students by 2017, to "step out for science" by measuring things like their carbon footprints.

The National Science Experiment (NSE) has roped in 43,140 students from primary schools to junior colleges so far and spurred them to start their own projects.

Chief executive officer Low Teck Seng of the National Research Foundation (NRF) said the project aims to promote science among students through experiential learning. He said: "We want to get them excited about science and technology, and make it real and alive for them."

Under the citizen science experiment launched this year, students wear a pocket sensor to capture data such as the number of steps they take or their travel patterns.

The participation figure this year has been lower than the target of 100,000 for the year. Organisers said this could be because the experiment coincided with the year-end exams.

The NSE is organised by the NRF and the Ministry of Education, in partnership with the Singapore University of Technology and Design, Science Centre Singapore and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Yesterday, the experiment's findings for this year were released at an event at the Science Centre Singapore, attended by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

It was found, for instance, that the average number of steps taken by a student each day was 5,853, and that nearly 87 per cent of participants went to school by walking or taking the bus and/or train.

During a media briefing earlier, Prof Low said he hopes that students will use the device to not only measure temperature or humidity, but also learn about things such as the concept of big data or how to reduce their carbon footprints.

Deputy chief executive of Science Centre Singapore Clarence Sirisena said he is happy to see students and teachers designing their own experiments.

At Hong Kah Secondary School, for example, about 20 students went to Gardens by the Bay to learn more about the temperature and humidity differences between the Cloud Forest and Singapore's urban environment.

"It was very enjoyable and it made me more interested in technology because we would discuss what the different sensors are," said Hong Kah Secondary 1 student Ng Man Xuan, 13.

At North Vista Secondary School, students plotted the temperature and light intensities in different parts of Pasir Ris Park to find ideal locations for growing different types of flowering plants.

Meanwhile, Mr Sirisena said the Science Centre is developing classroom curriculum to complement the NSE next year.

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