STEM stands for the grouping of the first letters of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Starting 2016, HK Education Bureau launched a scheme in promoting STEM education in both primary and secondary schools. In short, it aims at strengthening students’ ability to integrate and apply knowledge and skills across different STEM disciplines. Through the promotion of STEM education in schools, the Bureau anticipates it can enhance and sustain the competitiveness of Hong Kong.
Creativity heavily depends on sustainable and challenging thinking but bringing it to practice is not a must. On the contrary, innovation involves technical skills to transform creative ideas into novel prototypes. Proposed programs (1) and (2) are based on the framework of the DSE Chemistry Syllabus Chapter 4 (edb.gov.hk). They include a series of innovative designs together with related manual and electronic techniques to enable creative concepts in chemistry experimentation to work at practical level.
Programs (1) and (2) can be used as DSE chemistry curriculum STEM enrichment for teachers and students
STEM achievement is a kind of double-edged sword. It has advantages as well as disadvantages.
The two pictures on the left are disturbing, but they vividly bring out the pros and cons of usage of social media. Digital electronic technology and its rapid development can be regarded as the most important achievement of STEM for the past 50 years. Aspect of digital electronic technology development is one-way, i.e. on-going evolvement (just like the name of the network standard of 4G, LTE, Long Term Evolution), but its applications are multi-oriented, limited only by one’s imagination. This could be positive implementations like providing fast and complicated interactive information or negatively providing a platform for abuse usage and anti-social unacceptable behavior.
The invention of internal combustion engine in the 19th century and the derived developments enabled fast communications and transportations. At the same time, extensive domestic and industrial usages resulted in energy shortage, all sorts of severe pollutions and extreme climate change. Likewise, Nobel Prize winning Ziegler-Natta catalyst made stunning scale of production of man-made plastics possible. The readily available but disposable-resistant nature of this kind of materials not only improved our living quality but more importantly is that accumulated years of usage gives rise to immense waste problems, affecting all kinds of living things on Earth. STEM achievements as of now should be sustainable and seen as a holistic development of both human being and nature.
Program (1) Practical Basic Electronic Techniques
Program (1) aims at a fundamental understanding of the basic principles of operation of analogue and digital electronic circuits, with emphases on electronic computation at a layman’s level. It serves as an introduction rather than a formal course. Today’s lifestyle requires everyone to possess a smartphone. Synchronizing with the gadget’s development demands a common-sense way of understanding electronic skills, like knowing the Android and iOS of OS (operation system) of smartphones. Unaware of this means finding the wrong apps for the phone. Also, not knowing how to access to the internet, a lot of information will be missed.
The program which aims at an easy approach and working at practice-level, starts with establishing one’s manipulative skills and safety awareness to handle all kinds of tools of craftsmanship. This is followed by an introduction to available electronic components and their applications, coupled with commonly used analogue and digital circuits. The main focus being emphasizing on how development of digital electronic technology is closely related to binary Boolean algebra, a vivid demonstration of technology and mathematics are closely related as lips and teeth. The far-reaching applications of digital electronics is the most successful example of STEM achievements. It is hoped that the simple circuit designs introduced in the program could stimulate participants’ curiosity and developed as one’s personal hobby. If looked at a visionary point of view, it could act as one’s foundation for in-depth study of professional electronic technology that would signify one’s career dedicated to expected advanced electronic fields such as quantum computing, aerospace communications, AI, big data, block-chain, drones, robots, IoT etc. Program (1) is a prerequisite for handling electronic sensor circuits designed for quantitative instruments mentioned in Program (2).
The vision of STEM should not be limited to creativity and innovations at the present moment, it should inherit the spirit of looking forward for future possibilities. The author included 6G (wireless 6th generation communication) communication and quantum computing in Topics (11) to (13), relevant information all obtained from the internet. While there have been extensive discussions on 6G applications, the author expects himself to live long enough to experience 6G innovative mass media: wireless real time holographic 3D virtual image in smartphone screens, a total novel experience of viewing virtual 3D objects with parallax. In 2019 IBM announced its first world commercial model of quantum computer, the “Q System One”. However, revealed features fell short of expected specifications of a functional quantum computer, a system rather than a workable machine. Topic (9) depicts how the on/off mechanism of electronic logic gates play a central role in electronic computation. Appreciation of this concept helps a lot in exploring the on-going development of quantum computation, which demands knowledge of advanced mathematics, material science and electronic technology.