Mobile Tech Lab roll-out in 2017 will teach kids about Science and Technology

TEDxAruba 2016 kicked off on a positive note when — in addition to the announcement that TEDxAruba 2015 received the BIC award from OCTA Innovation — it was also announced that the organization of Overseas Countries and Territories in Brussels will provide the funds to develop a Mobile Technology Laboratory for Aruba. The objective of this project is to take the Mobile Tech Lab to the different secondary schools on the island, much like the concept of the Bibliobus for the primary schools. By doing so, the youth will be more exposed to the topic of technology and innovation.

At the beginning of this year, the Bureau of Innovation — a department of the Ministry of General Affairs, Innovation, Science and Sustainable Development led by Prime Minister Mike Eman — handed in a proposal to OCTA Innovation (a sub division of the Association of the Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union) requesting finance to realize the Mobile Tech Lab. Islands within the European Union are eligible to apply for funding from OCTA Innovation. In August, OCTA Innovation informed the Bureau of Innovation that their proposal has been accepted and that the Mobile Tech Lab for Aruba would become a reality.

After the announcement was made public during the opening of TEDxAruba 2016, mr. Marlon Kock – IT manager of the Bureau of Innovation – gave a short presentation explaining important details of the project, which is set out to start soon. The project includes transforming a container into a Mobile Technology Lab consisting of 3D printers, laser cutters, iPads, computers and packages to teach the children more about electronics and the latest technology. In addition to visiting the secondary schools, for the first two years the Mobile Tech Lab will also make stops at the national after school programs Traimerdia/Nos Atardi. The plan is to place the Tech Lab at each of these programs for a period of two weeks, where students will be exposed to new technology and develop the practical skills that they need to confront the challenges of the future. According to Kock “during these two weeks, students will engage in different practical tasks. A curriculum has been written for children ages 6-12 and for children ages 12-16. Students will learn to work with the 3D printers and print functional objects that they may take home with them. With the laser-cutters, students will be able to engrave their names on recycled pieces of wood or on the covers of their phones. Older students may learn to program computers and engage in more challenging tasks.”

Marlon Kock explaining the Mobile Tech Lab at TEDxAruba 2016

The aim of the Tech Lab is to 1) Expose the youth to new technologies in a practical and recreational manner; 2) Teach the youth how to work with these technologies so they are able to manage them in the future; 3) Teach the youth critical thinking and problem solving skills; 4) Expose the youth to what is currently being taught in theory at school to practice in the field; 5) Teach the youth to work together to solve problems, a crucial skill for the future; 6) Teach the youth to communicate with one another and to express themselves.

In the end, with this Mobile Tech Lab the Bureau of Innovation wishes to raise the scientific knowledge among our youth. “We want to create a generation of students with a better understanding of science and technology who are well equipped with the necessary skills and capacities to face the changes in technology in the future. Due to the practical learning experience in the Mobile Tech Lab, we anticipate that students will perform better at school, especially in subjects such as chemistry, physics and mathematics” expressed Kock.

In the coming weeks, as the official paperwork are being finalized, the Bureau of Innovation will share more information about the Mobile Tech Lab through a website. The team will also continue to approach different partners in order to make this project a sustainable gem for Aruba.

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