New UFS Science Education facility aims to inspire and empower
The Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof Francis Petersen, said universities are about interactive spaces such as the Science Education Centre
|The University of the Free State (UFS) Faculty of Education this week opened the first Science Education Centre (Sci-Ed) in central South Africa on its Bloemfontein Campus. Sci-Ed has as its mission the advancement of innovative and effective mathematics and science teaching and learning, which is beneficial to student teachers, in-service teachers, learners, parents, and the public at large. During the opening of the event on 6 December 2022, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof Francis Petersen, said universities are about interactive spaces such as the Science Education Centre. |
He believes it is in spaces such as these where innovations and initiatives are created to tackle science (and the world) of the future. “We must seek more of these spaces at the UFS. We must ensure that graduates from our university have a solid discipline – that they have their basis right – to prepare them to interact and engage in a multidisciplinary fashion, because that is what the world outside requires.” Speaking about the role of universities in society, Prof Petersen said the purpose of a university is to engage with society. “If we can’t show the public the value of what we have here, the public will ask what the value of universities is.
Why do universities exist in the first place? Our role is always to look at things that we do best: our intellectual ability to understand how things work; us challenging specific things and infusing that into society. It is for this reason that we have public lectures, science centres, and other platforms, allowing society to engage with us.” “Universities are places that evolve continuously, and this centre is an excellent example.” Referring to the UFS’ twelve-year strategic plan, Vision 130, he said besides visibility, the university will also focus on impact. “We can only show our impact through our graduates, the knowledge that we generate, the research that we conduct, and engaging with society.
This centre is all about that.” The Honourable Dr Tate Makgoe, the MEC for the Department of Education in the Free State, shared the sentiment that the impact of universities must be felt by the community. “I am inspired to know that this facility is open to the public. Government will be the main beneficiary of this science centre and we will use it profitably. Among others, I will send our Foundation Phase teachers here,” he stated.
An aesthetic and educational added value Dr Cobus van Breda, Manager of Sci-Ed and Programme Director of the Science-for-the-Future, an initiative hosted by the UFS Faculty of Education to address the challenge of mathematics and science teaching and learning in South Africa, said that the project had 289 884 participants between 2009 and 2022. He explained that this project implements mathematics and science teachers’ professional development and outreach programmes across the country. “In order to extend its impact, it was decided to establish a Science Education Centre to not only enhance its teaching and learning programmes to student educators and in-service teachers, but also to provide a platform to include science communication and engagement with the public.
Sci-Ed will be open to the public, and through outreach programmes as well as formal and non-formal visits to the centre, the community can make use of the benefits of the centre,” says Dr Van Breda. He sees the promotion of parental and family involvement in children’s learning as a priority for Sci-Ed. “Programmes and events aimed at empowering parents and guardians to support their children will also be presented,” said Dr Van Breda.
The Science Education Centre’s main objective, he says, is to create a STEAM+ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, and related areas) environment in the South African context, where innovative and 21st century science education (Grade R to Grade 12) can thrive. “The intent of Sci-Ed is to expose, inspire, and empower users while engaging in STEAM experiences and interactive exhibits,” he added. Merging the old with the new Dr Van Breda – the passion, drive, and dedication behind Sci-Ed – believes that teaching philosophy and facilities must complement each other. This resulted in the construction of the science centre, a realisation of a dream that started in 2005.
The centre was built in three stages. Phase one of the development involved the construction of the building. An outdoor park area was created during phase two, and interactive exhibits, programmes, and events were planned, developed, and enhanced during phase three to serve the purpose of the facility. “The last part will continue for about six more months, as we want to develop authentic exhibitions that support the university’s teaching and learning philosophy,” said Dr Van Breda. The Sci-Ed Building, designed to accommodate all the crucial elements of a modern science education centre, is an extension of the existing Winkie Direko Building.
Dr Van Breda explained that the architect designed the new building to seamlessly merge with the Winkie Direko Building, which dates from an earlier era. “A conscious decision was made to use some cladding from the old building where it merges into the new facility. This architectural feature can also be seen as a metaphor for building a bright new future on sound foundations,” he said. With its interactive exhibits, Sci-Ed will make it possible for the numbers of students, student educators, in-service educators, learners, parents, other interest groups and the public who will enter its doors, to engage in a hands-on manner with activities, and as such experience a science principle.
“Using interactive exhibits, we also hope to evoke questions that will stimulate discussion and enhance learning, especially coincidental learning,” said Dr Van Breda. He added that Sci-Ed will also serve as a social space on campus, where all students can interact within a fun and exciting popular science environment. Prof Loyiso Jita, Dean of the Faculty of Education, described the building as a dream come true. It is not just about the building, it is also about creating an intellectual space, both indoors and outdoors, to encourage students, staff, and the community to interact with science.
Innovative Ideas and Breakthroughs from NMIMS MPSTME Civil Engineering
The department has published two patents, research papers at international conferences
The Civil Engineering department of NMIMS MPSTME has been making significant strides in the field of disaster management, flood resilience, and sustainable infrastructure. The department has published two patents, research papers at international conferences, and completed several student-led projects on topics such as renewable energy, groundwater modelling, and self-healing concrete.
The first patent, ‘Automated Flood Water Regulating Multipurpose System,’ proposes a novel approach to flood resilience by constructing multipurpose wells on the banks of rivers to discharge excess water and generate hydropower. The second patent, ‘Aqua Barrier,’ is an automated mechanism that can protect any flood-prone area, regardless of its size, from any disasters caused due to water.
The student-led projects are equally impressive, with topics ranging from low-volume rural concrete roads to oscillating tidal wave energy converters. These projects showcase the department’s focus on sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, and innovative design.
The faculty at NMIMS MPSTME Civil Engineering department, led by Head, Dr. Meenal Mategaonkar and Research coordinator, Dr. Jigisha Vashi, played a vital role in guiding and mentoring students toward research excellence. Their expertise and guidance have enabled students to participate and win awards in prestigious competitions such as the CDRI’s ‘Imagining Disaster Resilient Structures’ and The University of Queensland’s ‘Engineering Design Challenge, and AAKAR at IIT Bombay.’
The department’s success is further evidenced by the achievements of its students in national and international conferences. Students presented their research papers in Scopus Indexed papers and conferences such as the 9th Indian Young Geotechnical Engineering Conference and the Eighth Indian Young Geotechnical Conference.
Dr. Meenal Mategaonkar, Head of the Civil Engineering Department, MPSTME, NMIMS, said, “The achievements of the NMIMS MPSTME Civil Engineering department demonstrate its commitment to developing innovative solutions for complex problems in the field of civil engineering. The department’s focus on sustainable infrastructure, disaster resilience, and renewable energy is essential for addressing the challenges faced by society today. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of both students and faculty and their commitment to excellence.”
Embark on a Journey of Scientific Empowerment with NMIMS School of Science’s Innovative Programs!
The school is known for its strong emphasis on academic excellence, research, and innovation, and is recognized as one of the leading science schools in the country
SVKM’s NMIMS Sunandan Divatia School of Science (SDSOS) has officially announced the commencement of the admissions process for its Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral programs. The school is known for its strong emphasis on academic excellence, research, and innovation, and is recognized as one of the leading science schools in the country.
Aspiring students who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of science can now apply for various undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral programs offered by SDSOS. The Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) programs are available in Applied Psychology, Biomedical Science, and Animation and VFX, while the Master of Science (M.Sc.) programs are offered in Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Applied Psychology, and Physiotherapy. The school also offers Ph.D. program in Science with various disciplines such as Chemistry, and Biological Sciences.
With a focus on creating industry-ready and research-savvy graduates, SDSOS has been at the forefront of imparting cutting-edge knowledge and practical skills through constantly evolving curriculums and state-of-the-art facilities and is situated in the heart of Mumbai.
Dr. Purvi Bhatt, I/C Dean, Sunandan Divatia School of Science, said, “The school provides a dynamic and inclusive learning environment that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and innovation. Our interdisciplinary approach to education prepares students for successful careers in science and beyond, while our emphasis on co-curricular and extracurricular activities ensures their holistic development.”
The school has a student-centric environment that supports research in niche areas of Science & Technology, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and equipment to enhance students’ hands-on skills, and a library facility that is constantly updated with the latest information. The labs at SDSOS provide modernised infrastructure and the latest equipment such as the animal tissue culture lab and the wet labs at the department of Biological Sciences offer cutting-edge technology to mould students into scientists.
School of Science offers a wide range of opportunities for students to explore their talents and interests, as well as gain valuable practical experience. The events and activities mentioned, such as Excalibur, National Science Day, Open day, Guest talks, Book Talk, Sports Day, Psych Film Fest, and club activities like photography and art, these programs provide a platform for students to demonstrate their abilities and gain insights from their peers.
The Future of Architecture Takes Center Stage at NMIMS BSSA
Leach is a co-founder of Digital FUTURES and an academician at the Academy of Europe
NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture was excited to host Open Studio 2022-23 program by the renowned architectural theorist and digital design expert, Neil Leach, on 28th March 2023 and the title was, “Tell me that AI ain’t scary”
Leach is a co-founder of Digital FUTURES and an academician at the Academy of Europe. Leach has published over 40 books on architectural theory and digital design, including “Architecture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence: An Introduction to AI for Architects” and “The AI Design Revolution: How AI Will Transform Architecture.”
In the lecture, Leach highlighted the potential threat that artificial intelligence (AI) poses to the field of architecture. With the recent launch of GPT4 and the growing capabilities of AI, there is concern among architects that their jobs may be at risk. Leach provided an informed overview of the current state of AI and its potential impact on the architecture profession.
“We are very happy and proud to host Professor Neil Leach at the school. As a leading school of architecture, we are committed to providing our students with a comprehensive education that equips them with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the rapidly evolving field of design. Our Open Studio program and public lectures, and talks by experts like Neil Leach, play a critical role in this mission by enabling students to learn from distinguished scholars and practitioners and engage with cutting-edge ideas and technologies. We are excited to continue providing these opportunities and look forward to seeing the impact they will have on the future of architecture and design,” said, BSSA Dean, Dr. Kaiwan Mehta. As the field of architecture continues to evolve, it is essential to stay informed about emerging technologies and their potential impact on the profession. NMIMS BSSA School enables students to learn from experts and engage with pressing issues in architecture and design. By inviting renowned scholars and practitioners like Neil Leach to share their insights and expertise, the school provides a valuable opportunity for students to expand their knowledge and deepen their understanding of the field.
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