LOOK: This yellow bus will show Pinoy students what it’s like to be a scientist

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2019 04:44 AM

DOST-SEI’s nuLab team

Every year, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) offers scholarships to students who want to pursue science-related careers. But despite the full scholarship, they are still not getting enough applicants.

“Every year we increase our slots (for the DOST scholarship). Last year it was at 8,000… but we were not able to fill the slots,” said Candy Ilaw, project co-leader of DOST- Science Education Institute’s nuLab project.

“Some are not aware of the (scholarship program). We haven’t reached them. That’s why we are now going to them,” she said during the DOST’s National Science and Technology Week event at the World Trade Center on Wednesday.

NuLab is a new mobile science learning facility of DOST, which will be touring around the country to entice senior high school students to take up science courses.

It is an improvement on DOST-SEI’s Science Explorer bus, which caters to elementary and high school students and has reached 100 municipalities and 32,000 students since it started operating in 2010.

EMERGING SCIENCE CAREERS

The custom-made nuLab bus is filled with monitors and laptops that students can use as they learn about emerging science careers.

Ilaw explained that many students in the provinces prefer criminology and tourism but considered Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses after trying out the Science Explorer.

“We have participants from Science Explorer who are now DOST scholars,” she said, adding that they are hoping to convince more students through the nuLab.

Every day, nuLab will conduct 3-hour workshops twice—one in the morning, another in the afternoon. Each session will accommodate 24 students who are made to do hands-on activities.

“We have laboratory-grade equipment that we lend to the children so they experience what it’s like to be a scientist, what scientists do when they are in the field,” Ilaw said.

Topics include nanotechnology, aerospace engineering, nuclear science, earthquake risk analysis, science media literacy, programming, oceanography, robotics, entomology and environmental science.

TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN

Astrophysicist Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, who created the aerospace engineering module of nuLab, said the new mobile lab focuses on “technology enhanced learning.”

“If you notice the facility of nuLab there are computer monitors, smart screens, it’s more technology-based because we’re now in the digital age. Students now are more into computers. But in other parts of the country, in rural areas, they don’t have that kind of exposure,” he said. “So this is one fo the things that we hope we can help promote in remote areas of the country.”

“We all know not all schools have a good science laboratory but through the use of the nuLab we can promote STEM education. Hopefully they can go to future STEM careers as well,” Sese said.

Sese’s aerospace module will focus on drone technology.

“I teach students the basic of drones or unmanned vehicles. How they are being developed, how they are made, what are the principles of operation,” he said, explaining how drones are complementary to satellites.

He explained that drones are used for agriculture and environmental monitoring. 

“Instead of flying an airplane, which is costly, you can now utilize drones for that,” Sese said. “If you want to do it in a national scale that’s when you go to satellites.”

Sese said aerospace engineering allows “flying without flying.”

During his session, students can also use a simulator where they learn to fly a drone. 

“It looks like a game but (they will understand) the physics,” he said. “It’s a step towards orienting them to satellite technology.”

SCIENCE IS COOL

For senior high school student Lance Morabe, who was among the first to try nuLab’s nanotechnology module, his experience at nuLab was “cool.”

“I learned something new as a student that we have not seen before,” he said. 

Morabe said it is even more interesting that the bus will be going to the students and not the other way around.

He said this is especially helpful as more students are not getting interested in science “because it is now more needed by our society.”

While he is already interested in studying biochemistry, Morabe said other students can benefit from nuLab because lessons start with the assumption that the learners have zero knowledge about the topic.

Sese said they are all trained to teach students of different levels of interest when it comes to science.

“We’ve all been involved with the Science Explorer bus before and we saw how the background of schools vary,” he said. “Some schools are more advanced, some schools have little to no exposure (to such technologies).”

DOST-SEI’s nuLab team

ARE FILIPINO SCARED OF SCIENCE?

Both Sese and Ilaw said they also noticed how some students are scared of science, that is why not a lot go into STEM careers.

“Sometimes they are scared of mathematics. They think it’s hard. But we want to show them that it is not hard and that there are a lot of opportunities for them,” Ilaw said.

Meanwhile, Sese pointed out, "For Filipinos they are very curious about new things. ‘Hey that’s new, it looks interesting.’ But sometimes they let their fear get to them.”

“They are scared of damaging equipment. But that’s part of the learning process,” he said. “Science is all about learning. Even if the result is negative, that still means something.”

“That’s something we hope students would learn to appreciate, that they don’t fear technology, they don’t fear science. By using science and technology they can actually explore new career paths in the future,” Sese said.

Ilaw said there are 10,000 DOST scholarship slots awaiting students this year. To fill this up, they will be bringing nuLab to different provinces. It will be visiting Ilocos Norte, Iloilo and Mt. Province soon.

Students still have a chance to see it at the World Trade Center until the last day of the National Science and Technology Week on Sunday.