Suwiti Abd Ranee participating in a space training simulator at the USSRC.
Suwiti Abd Ranee (front row, second from right) with Science teachers from other countries at the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy (HESA) Programme at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Alabama, USA.

KUALA LUMPUR: SCIENCE lessons will be more interesting after this at SK ST Mary's, Kuching.

In June, the school's science teacher ​Suwiti Abd Ranee attended the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy (HESA) Programme for science teachers jointly organised by U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC).

Together with 14 other Science teachers from Malaysia, she completed 45-hours of classroom and laboratory instructions on science and space exploration in Alabama, United States.

The teachers also participated in astronaut-style exercises such as high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions, coding challenges, land and water survival training and interactive flight dynamics programmes.

“I thought it was just going to be a closeted programme where everything would be done indoors, but I was thrown off-guard when we were asked to participate in the physical training,” said Suwiti.

“I would say we went through about 15 per cent of an astronaut’s actual training programme,” she added.

To fulfil her passion to teach, Suwiti dived straight into teaching Science after graduating as a software engineer. Currently, she also teaches English at the school. She came to hear about HESA earlier this year and decided to apply immediately.

According to Suwiti, the application process itself wasn’t that rigorous, but she did have to write three essays in English about her experiences in teaching science, as well as tell of the challenges she faced in teaching the subject.

Suwiti and 14 other Science teachers who took part in HESA in 2016 and 2017 were given recognition for having successfully completed the HESA programme training in a ceremony yesterday.

Present to give away certificates and their HESA uniforms was Professor Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, science advisor to the Prime Minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).

In his speech, he praised efforts by Honeywell ASEAN to inspire Malaysian students to study STEM subjects. “It is good that Honeywell is encouraging teachers to show that science can be fun and critical at the same time. It is indeed rare in Malaysia.”

The teachers from Malaysia joined selected educators from other countries around the globe as well the 52 U.S states and territories. Since its launch in 2004, 2,776 educators from 62 countries, including 25 from Malaysia, have graduated from the HESA programme. Successful applicants are awarded scholarships, round-trip airfare, tuition, meals and accommodation.

Honeywell ASEAN president, Briand Greer said: “As a leading technology and soft company, Honeywell places a great deal of importance on educating our next generation of scientists and engineers.

“We all need to keep the excitement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – STEM – going for the young, because there are real problems to solve. For example, developing truly clean and sustainable energy; cleaning up the environment and solving crippling health issues.

“We have always been obsessed with tinkering, discovering, inventing and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

“Technology discovery has helped us succeed to where we are today, and the success of our employees, our technologists and our software engineers all started off in a classroom somewhere in the world.”

Still fresh from her experience, Suwiti has helped open her students’ eyes to the fact that girls too can dream of becoming astronauts. At her school, Suwiti has set up a mini Space Corner to show what she had learnt in the USSRC. She also has plans to talk about her HESA experience and conduct lessons utilising the knowledge she has gained throughout the programme to students at other schools in Kuching.

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