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STEMulator – a gift to the youth of the nation

STEMulator is a groundbreaking virtual platform designed to ignite the spark of curiosity in young minds and stimulate their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. An initiative of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF), a leading advocate for science and technology education in South Africa, is proud to announce the gifting of the STEMulator to the youth of the nation with the launch of its free virtual school on National Youth Day June 16th, 2024.

A world of exploration at their fingertips.

The addition of the maths and science classrooms in the virtual school, set to go live on the 16th of June 2024 in celebration of Youth Day, is a thoughtful gift to the youth of our nation by the NSTF. This initiative aims to address the pressing issue of STEM literacy in our country by providing a comprehensive and engaging educational experience.

The STEMulator platform was officially launched in early July 2020 with the aim of getting more school-going learners interested and engaged in STEM subjects and careers and to persevere with maths and science at school. Featuring a wide range of interactive and educational content, the STEMulator was developed by the NSTF and its proSET (Professionals in Science, Engineering and Technology) Committee.  STEMulator is a proudly South African initiative that is unique in the world, providing a platform for young people to explore, discover, and learn about the important role that STEM professionals play in various fields.

“STEMulator is not your typical educational platform,” explains Richard Gundersen, Chief Instigator at STEMulator. “It’s an immersive, interactive landscape filled with animated objects and clickable areas. Imagine a child clicking on a car and being transported inside to explore its engine or clicking on a farm and learning about the machinery used for harvesting. This engaging format allows learners to explore various aspects of STEM in a fun and accessible way.”

By clicking on objects, they can delve deeper, uncovering the inner workings of machines and the fascinating processes behind everyday phenomena, all of which link directly into exciting career paths available in STEM fields, along with information relating to where to study and how to qualify. Learners can also discover the origins and processing procedures behind everyday foodstuffs such as a loaf of bread – the loaf of bread in the pantry will take you from the combine harvester in the wheat fields, through the mill, to the bakery; guiding kids to explore the origins of ingredients, the mechanics of a mill, the chemistry of baking, and gain an appreciation for the complexities and diverse skills and careers involved in creating a simple loaf of bread

The NSTF’s have created a virtual school that is fully aligned to the existing educational curricula and programmes, ensuring a cohesive and effective learning environment that supports the development of our future leaders in STEM fields. By doing so, we hope to inspire a passion for learning, foster critical thinking, and equip our youth with the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly complex and technology-driven world.”

More than just fun – addressing a critical need

The creation of the STEMulator is driven by a critical need to address the declining interest in STEM subjects among South African youth. This lack of interest translates to a shortage of skilled professionals in vital fields, hindering the country’s development.

The NSTF is committed to reversing this trend. “STEMulator is our gift to the nation’s youth, a free and accessible platform that makes learning about STEM fun and engaging,” Gundersen continues. “This is particularly important for students from underprivileged backgrounds who may not have access to traditional resources.”

Key features of the STEMulator.org:

  • Virtual landscape: … to explore at leisure, all things STEM, from pumping human hearts to jet turbines, microbes to mountains, nature to agriculture,
  • Virtual school: The school features maths and science classrooms with curriculum-aligned content and teacher guidance notes. The relevance of the curriculum is revealed by linking to objects in the virtual world, from the human body to energy sources, solidifying learner’s understanding of classroom lessons.
  • Career guidance: STEMulator doesn’t stop at sparking curiosity; it helps learners connect their interests to potential careers. Every item on the STEMulator provides valuable insights into career opportunities to help make informed decisions about their futures and subject choices.
  • Freely available and proudly South African: A key aspect of the STEMulator is its accessibility. It’s completely free to use, at stemulator.org, ensuring that all learners, regardless of background, can benefit from this innovative resource. Developed and maintained in South Africa, STEMulator celebrates local talent and ingenuity.
  • Forever expanding: New material is being added continuously. Our mine and transport sections are under construction.

A call to action – contribute to the future of STEM education.

While STEMulator offers a robust foundation, there’s always room for growth. The NSTF encourages contributions from individuals, educators, and organisations. This can include:

  • Individuals: Explore STEMulator and share it with your children, grandchildren, or younger siblings.
  • Educators: Integrate STEMulator into your lesson plans, contribute content to ensure alignment with the national curriculum, and encourage students to explore the platform.
  • Companies and organisations: Contribute missing content, showcase your products or services through relevant animations, or offer financial support to help the platform reach its full potential. By actively participating in the STEMulator, businesses can not only support STEM education but also earn CSI/BEE points by demonstrating their commitment to education and innovation. Showcasing how your products or business align with STEM principles can further enhance your impact and visibility within the STEM community.
  • Professional bodies: Contribute to the STEMulator by providing content, resources, and expertise related to your field. Showcase how your profession is relevant to STEM and inspire students to pursue related careers. By supporting the STEMulator, professional bodies can help establish a strong foundation for STEM education and highlight the importance of their discipline in driving innovation and progress.

Long-term vision to empower the next generation

The NSTF envisions a future where every learner under the age of 15 has the opportunity to explore STEMulator. This exposure will empower them to make informed choices about their education and career paths. “Whether they choose STEM or another field, STEMulator will equip them with valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Gundersen concludes.

Visit STEMulator today at https://stemulator.org/ and embark on a journey of discovery!

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