Tuesday 30 August 2016

Virtual Wonders

On March 27th and 28th this year, young visitors to Petrosains were given the opportunity to experience landmark places, culture and language of Italy, France or Germany without physically leaving Malaysia. How was this possible you might ask? Well, we owe it all to the technology known as Virtual Reality (VR). 

VR replicates a real or imagined environment and lets us experience a different reality from where we physically are. Although it has been around for a while, it’s only in recent years VR is gaining attraction and is tipped to revolutionize the entertainment, education, tourism and many other industries. With VR, one can experience a live streaming concert as if you are there when the reality is you could be at home in your pyjama; medical students can practice surgery without using a cadaver; or one could learn and experience Mars without being in Mars! The possibilities are endless. 

Science centres and tourist attractions could benefit from VR too. Plenty has been said on how VR can truly enhance the museum experience. The Natural History Museum lets visitors experienced a 3D journey to discover and learn on earth’s earliest inhabitants through VR. The British Museum meanwhile allow their visitors to learn more about ancient artefacts on display by using VR to bring them to the places where the objects came from. 

Now imagine if you are a visitor to Petrosains and when you stop at Geotime Diorama, not only could you see replicas of Dinosaurs but you could also experience how these creatures live and learn more by just putting on a headset! Your visit and your educational experience would be truly enhanced. What about letting visitors a glimpse what is like to visit a 452m tower? Although certain parties worry that virtual reality will deter people from visiting the place physically, I beg to differ. 

Take for example travel shows. If we could already see a culture or a place of a country from a TV, why then did international tourist arrivals worldwide increased by 4.4% in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million?(World Tourism Organization). I believe nothing can beat the real experience of being at a place. 

Given the success of VR in tourist attractions and the potential for it to further enhance one’s educational experience, I think it is about time we take this technology further and start creating amazing wonders. 

Shared by Jasmine Johan
Guest Blogger

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Donors Without Borders

(The children from Al-Wadi Orphanage Home. Picture Courtesy of Noorizam)

While their city peers started their days twitting and chatting, Adam and Sarah awoke every morning to the twittering and chattering of birds in their quiet hamlet. The twins, and their younger sister, Farah, lived with their maternal grandparents in Kg. Jelutong, Kuala Nerang, since they were small. Their father, a construction worker, and their mother, a nurse, perished in a fatal crash while riding back from their workplaces on one fateful evening. Having lost their parents at such a tender age, the siblings didn’t have a memory recollection of them except for an old family portrait hung on the wooden wall.

8 years passed on and the twins were in Year 6 while Farah was in Year 2 in SK Kuala Nerang when Petrosains, in collaboration with Bank Islam, visited the school last year to engage the Year 6 students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education. Described as bright students by their teachers, the twins stood out among the rest. Adam had a knack in building stuff while Sarah had a passion in caring for their sickly grandparents and little Farah.  When asked if they aspire to be an engineer and a doctor respectively, they had this as the answer: “Engineers and doctors are just in TVs. We can never be like them.” They were merely looking up to their teachers as role models.

A month after the CSR visit-to-school program, the twins, together with other students from selected remote schools, were brought to Kuala Lumpur for a 3D/2N STEAM Camp-In at Petrosains. Being the first time ever to set their foot in KLCC, they were in complete awe with the majestic structure of the Twin Towers, the engaging exhibits of the Discovery Centre, and the other iconic places which they could only see in their black and white TV. They were also completely engrossed in the interactive STEAM workshops. It seemed that they had discovered their real passions... and their real destiny.

The STEAM engagement by Petrosains wide opened their eyes. If they previously dreamt of becoming teachers, Adam and Sarah were now warming up to engineering and medicine careers. Upon hearing these from the visiting teachers, their grandparents had beaming smiles and just glanced at the portrait on the wall… as if they knew something more. The Petrosains trip indeed changed the twin’s mindset that engineers and doctors are realistic people, not just someone bigger than life they normally see in TV screens.  

Then, tragedies struck twice and the whole world came crashing on them soon after their UPSR exam. Their guardians died one after another over the span of weeks. At her death bed, their grandmother handed the twins a well-kept diary once belonged to their mother. Flipping through the pages, they found out that their mother was actually an SPM high achiever but had to quash her dream of becoming a doctor and enroll instead in the town’s nursing community college. She penned her last wish that her children will someday carry on her dreams. A neatly folded paper later came off between the diary pages… It was an offer letter for their father to do an engineering degree in a local university with the acceptance form filled, but remained unreturned. Poverty had taken its tolls.

The siblings stayed in an orphanage home for a while until the UPSR results were out. The twins naturally did well in the exam and were offered places in a boarding school in Pendang while Farah was put under the care of a foster parent there as to keep them closer together. Before leaving to town, they visited the cemetery for the last time and strolled around the dilapidated hut they once called home. As the car drove away, they looked back and bade a silent farewell to their childhood. 

While Farah was still too small to even take care of herself, the twins already had their future in sights. Clutching the old family portrait and the diary firmly, Adam and Sarah had actually made a solemn promise by their parents’ tombstones that they will complete their parents’ legacy of dreams in becoming an engineer and a doctor respectively. 

The story of the Kuala Nerang siblings may just be a tip of an iceberg. There could be hundreds more cases across the racial and geographic locations which may have gone undiscovered. Amazing talents could have been deprived and precious life may have been wasted. These less fortunate children require financial assistance in pursuit of decent education. The world needs real heroes and collectively we can become saviors. 

Petrosains, in collaboration with 100% Project, is planning to democratize public donation via a crowdfunding platform. Once ready, we can visit www.100percentproject.org from the comfort of our homes, and fund Petrosains projects to reach out, bring and inspire more of the less privileged children in STEAM education. Contribution starts from a nominal amount of RM 10 up to RM 1,000. 
In return for the noble acts, we’ll get ‘Feel Good’ tokens ranging from ‘Thank You’ notes from the teacher, handwritten notes from the students, pictures of them, to ‘Major Sponsor’ title placement, which vary according to the pledge denominations. But nothing really beats the contentment that we will conscientiously leave permanent imprints inside the children’s heart… and their future, with our small deeds.

Step in and come to the fore. Regardless of the realistic chances in discovering more Adam and Sarah, Heaven knows that at least we have tried. Human compassion has no boundaries... Let’s create wonders and become donors without borders.

Shared by Hasnan
Guest Blogger