In an effort to promote public interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and elevate strides towards transforming Botswana from a resource-based to a knowledge based economy, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) hosted the 4th annual STEM festival at the main campus in Palapye last week.
The three day festival ran from the 17-19th April and was graced by among others students and teachers from various primary, junior and senior secondary schools and tertiary institutions offering STEM based courses.The university has been hosting STEM Festivals since 2015 where innovations and inventions are acknowledged, celebrated and nurtured. STEM festivals provide a platform for innovators and inventors, researchers and academics from all walks of life to showcase their inventions, concepts, blueprints or final products. “As they exhibit their inventions and putative products at the BIUST STEM Festivals, businesses and venture capitalists are keeping a close eye on how they can invest in those inventions. The BIUST STEM Festivals are therefore a meeting place for those with invention ideas to meet those with money to invest in those ideas and putative products,” said BIUST Vice Chancellor Professor Otlogetswe Totolo.
Giving an overview of the festival, Professor Totolo said the disciplines of Science Technology Engineering and Math are the building blocks and essential components of a knowledge-based economy. He said given that in every part of the world competence in STEM is often marginal, nations now deliberately and assiduously inculcate in their learners an appreciation, interest and life-long engagement in STEM. Botswana is one of them.
The three day program included exhibitions and displays, seminars,talk shows, symposia, demonstrations/shows, and one on one interactions between inventors, interested members of the public and the media. Officially opening the STEM festival Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) Chief Executive Officer Stefan Schwarzfischer said the STEM festival is an opportunity for organisations in the industry of science and technology to network with their future human resource. It is also an opportunity for parastatals and government institutions to motivate students and demonstrate areas through which research, science and technology has contributed to the improvement and growth of the country’s economy.
Schwarzfischer said through BIUST, the Government of Botswana has ensured that research, science and technology programs offered by the institution addresses the local demand for skills in science and technology based industries, thereby meeting the demands of ever changing economic environment. Addressing BIUST students the BPC CEO said, they were all empowered with exclusive training considering the scarcity of skills they will acquire upon completion of their programs. “These skills will benefit Botswana to remain relevant and globally competitive in as far as research, science and technology are concerned. BIUST students consider yourself a rare charm and do nurture the skills that you will acquire from here into the future,” he said.
He pledged support for BIUST objectives to become a vehicle for science and technology development through research and technology transfer by making BPC resources available for research, internships, exposing students to tours that will motivate their dream to become change makers in the industry that is highly dependent on science and technology. Most importantly, Schwarzfischer said BPC has opportunities for employment for students who will graduate as Electrical Engineers, Process Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Instrumentation and Information Technology personnel. “In the current financial year, BPC has a total of 28 students on a one year internship programme getting exposure within the science and technology based functions of our business operations. In the recent past we have had an annual average of 12 graduate engineers and 12 graduate technicians at both our Gaborone and Morupule operations. These graduate trainees would have completed their studies at different Universities and Technical training institutions, and are supported with on the job training in line with performance objectives set for them,” he said.
For his part, BITRI Chief Executive Officer Professor Shedden Masupe, said his organisation’s mission to conduct needs-based technology research that provides sustainable innovative solutions through co-creation, collaboration and vision to be the leading technology solutions provider that transforms lives is in line with what BIUST stands for, adding that BITRI was in full support of the STEM festival. Professor Masupe said there is need for all stakeholders to ensure that functional Innovation Eco-System and that innovation culture are grown from grassroots. He further implored stakeholders to trust local products which include also trusting institutions of higher learning like BIUST.