News / 28 May 2019

Start Them Young to be Makers & Problem Solvers

Education has always been the backbone of a nation. It is the centrepiece of the future generation that would make or break a country. It is crucial for our Malaysian education system to be more innovative in its delivery and content. As Sir Ken Robinson said in his book ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything‘, “the fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” In approaching this subject, the head of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Centre (IEC) and the Professor of Practice at Asian School of Business, Professor Rajesh Nair — created an initiative called the ‘Zero2Maker (Z2M)’ programme in hopes of creating more innovative makers and problem solvers at a young age.

On the 9th of May, we visited ASB at Sasana Kijang to talk to him on the ‘Zero2Maker (Z2M)’ programme. Watch as he describes the initiative in details while giving us a tour of ASB:

The Kedahan First Maker Pilot

As explained by Prof. Rajesh, the first pilot the ‘Zero2Maker (Z2M)’ programme was held for four days in Kedah with schools selected to participate and grow by the Kedah Education Department.

Viviantie Sarjuni, a programme manager at MaGIC, was there to be part of the initiative as MaGIC was among of the seven stakeholders involved in supporting the ‘Zero2Maker’ programme. When asked about it, she explained further, “The Zero2Maker (Z2M) programme is designed to take students through experiential learning to stimulate creativity, technical skills, communication abilities, and self-confidence. Change starts with individuals and spread to groups and communities. Therefore, 60 students and 20 teachers were selected from 10 schools in Kedah by the Kedah Education Department to participate in the 4-day programme, where they went through interactive activities covering the basics of creativity, design and product fabrication. Each school were given 10 units of Z2M ‘Makerlab In A Box’ starter kit that contains tools like 3D printers, electronic supplies and other materials for these students to kickstart a maker lab in their respective schools. The mission is to influence innovation and entrepreneurship attitudes of young students through hands-on exposure to art, technology, ideation & fabrication processes.

Viviantie with the students (Z2M)
“Viviantie with some of the participating students and their design”

The schools that were selected for the ‘Zero2Maker’ programme are:

  • Maahad Dini Sultan Abdul Halim
  • SMK Sungai Pasir Kechil
  • Maktab Mahmud Alor Setar
  • SMK Sultanah Bahiyah
  • SMK Datuk Syed Ahmad
  • SMK Darulaman Heights 1
  • SMK Sultanah Asmah
  • SMK Bukit Selambau
  • SMK Amanjaya
  • SMK Agama Jerlun

Intimidated at First, Passionately Inspired After

Viviantie was awe-inspired in her answers when we asked about the atmosphere created by the participating students and teachers during the programme. “At first, they were a bit intimidated, especially when they saw that big Maker Lab big box,” she said, “but when they started the unboxing and were given some guidance by the coach and mentors, they got excited and started to explore things. I saw changes in the way they communicate as well, not only between students but teachers and students. In this programme, everyone is at the same level, no such thing as teachers know better than students. everyone is learning together. and that is also one of the purposes to encourage communication across all levels and everyone can learn from one another despite backgrounds and hierarchy.

In less than 48 hours, the students and teachers worked together in coming up and developing innovative ideas by exploring the tools and techniques taught and given in the programme. Muhammad Harith, a participate from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama (SMKA) Jerlun, told the organisers that he is “always excited with Maths, Sciences, Robotics, and Technology but now we have all these cool new tools and the experience to take back with me — to take back to my school, now I’m more excited than ever!” Darwish, another participate from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Darulaman Height 1also shared that “the world is changing and getting normal jobs isn’t easy for young people. Now, we need to get smarter. We need to improve ourselves.”

On the 3rd day of the programme, Dato’ Seri Haji Mukhriz Mahathir, the Chief Minister of Kedah, made an official visit and officiated the programme. He also interacted with the participating students and teachers, visited their booths and observed their demonstrations of ideas and inventions. Dato’ Seri Haji Mukhriz Mahathir shared his happiness with the organisers on the programme and was proud to see the talents of students as well as teachers in exploring innovation and technology.

What’s Next for the ‘Zero2Maker (Z2M)’ programme?

We then asked what is next for the ‘Zero2Maker (Z2M)’ programme to Viviantie and she stated that “teachers and students are currently setting up labs at their respective schools and they will be on-boarded on a platform so the mentors could see their progress remotely. The next steps are:

  1. Strengthening Innovation Ecosystems in High Schools: 5 schools will be randomly selected to receive supplementary training on how to strengthen innovation ecosystems in their contexts.
  2. Z2M Kedah CompetitionZ2M Kedah 2019 culminates through a state-wide competition held in November 2019 that brings together all 10 schools and their students to participate in a spirited competition that celebrates each institution’s commitment to creativity and innovation. Distinctions awarded during this competition will be discussed by the Z2M organizing committee. Nothing excites innovators like a competition with fellow Makers from other schools. This attracts new talent to the seed group and helps build innovative ecosystems organically.”

She continued, “Every week mentors will post a new challenge and each school need to complete the challenge using the lab provided. On top of that the teachers and students participated need to teach teachers and students at their respective schools on how to operate the lab and what can they make out of it.”

A Small Step for a Larger Picture

Viviantie also shared a part of MaGIC’s vision called MaGIC Ecosystem Building Initiative and its goal in creating more ecosystems of entrepreneurs. She also opened up on her inspiration for leading the initiative, “My inspiration came from my own experience growing up in a palm oil plantation (Pamol Plantation) and witnessed how my dad, who was a school principal drove the rural and poor community there through education. The school was selected as Sekolah Harapan Negara in 1993, was given a budget to rebuild the infrastructure, and received a visitation from the then Deputy Prime Minister, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the then Minister of Education, Muhyiddin Yassin. Although it is in a different context from entrepreneurship, from then on, I believe it is possible to build a great ecosystem but you need passionate, driven ecosystem builders to drive the people,” She also hoped that she is able to “not only to reach out to more ecosystems of entrepreneurs in Malaysia but to create more leaders! Only through a thriving community will we be able to create better economies. But we can’t do this alone, and we hope to collaborate not only with the ecosystem builders but higher learning institutions, corporations, governments and professionals. Collaboration is key, and only through collaborating MaGIC can happen!”

Viviantie aptly concluded that the geographical area and the readiness of the people are never a barrier for a community to explore new things within the entrepreneurship sphere, let alone technology and innovation — but the mindset to take the first step is a challenging wall to overcome.


Written by Syafie Mustafa