EDfutures Influencer: Chee K Wong

Chee K Wong, Owner –  e2 Young Engineers Perth

Chee has spent most of his adult life acting as the “interpreter” between business and technical. He has this uncanny abilities of using simple language to convey very complicated ideas. He first discovered these abilities when he was working in the technology industry where he was often asked to “translate” business speak into technical specifications.

These days, he owns and operates e2 Young Engineers, Perth. His team of instructors can be found engaging, enriching and inspiring children from 11 primary schools throughout Perth. Chee is a regular guest presenter at Scitech and speaks at various conferences related to STEM education.

Tell us a bit about e2 Young Engineers…

“We live for one thing – to see our students experience that “light-globe” moment that makes everything possible.

We provide STEM education programs using Lego in primary schools – that’s what the marketing department would like me to say. I think what where we really excel is the way we come up with crazy but believable real-world problem-solving scenarios that takes students through amazing experiences. The keywords are problem-solving and experience. Through these experiences, students learn but more importantly it triggers their curiosity to keep them seeking new knowledge. When we create these experiences, we use elements of story-telling, hands-on demonstrations and our specially designed Lego kits to make learning fun, accessible and rapid. We work with teachers, school leaders & students from PP-6 and we are part of a larger network that also operates in QLD, NSW & VIC.”

What partnerships do you have with the community?

In 2017, we discussed forming partnerships with several schools, including John XXIII College about the opportunity to become what we call an Exemplary Engineering School (EES). The idea of EES is to demonstrate to primary school leaders and teachers that anyone can teach engineering (Yes anyone!  It’s not that scary) and easily embed more authentic problem-solving opportunities into their classroom. In its entirety, EES is intended to be a whole-school – community – industry ecosystem. A concept that I know is used at EDfutures regularly. At present, several schools are piloting the first stage of EES – enabling internal teaching staff to deliver engineering in their school.

We are also engaging with industry to seek interested groups to collaborate on EES. I see industry as an important component to this ecosystem because so many kids lack the creative problem-solving skills that is so fondly looked upon by industry. In addition, I’ve read reports that suggests that many kids have already disengaged with STEM (ie, chosen a non-STEM career path) by the time they leave primary school. These are factors that industry should care about.

It is my hope that every school will deliver engineering as they would with any of the general capabilities in the curriculum. This may seem a far-fetched idea to most because of pre-conceptions of what engineering is, but once you get familiar with the idea that engineering is actually a methodology to solving problems then this really starts to make sense.”

What drives you personally in your work?

“Personally, I’m on a mission to save humanity. Seriously! I have this vision in my head that about fifteen years from now (when current primary students become adults) we will arrive in a workplace that is vastly different. There will be no jobs, no salary and lots of automation. It will be an age where creativity and on-the-spot problem-solving skills reign supreme because every previously known fact, formula or process would have already been coded into a ‘sub-routine’. Many futurists talk about the job losses when this age arrives, but I don’t see that as the biggest problem. I see mental health on a massive scale as the most profound problem we will face.”

Learn more about e2 Young Engineers here.

Rees Barrett, School Programs Coordinator, UNAAWA

Rees has 45 years’ experience in education including secondary teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences area (geography, history and citizenship), educational administration, curriculum, assessment and school review. Curriculum experience includes the Kindergarten to Year 10 Social Studies syllabus (1980s), National curriculum for Australia (1990s) and VET in Schools. Rees has published textbooks in Australian geography and a primary library series Significant People in Australia’s History (2009). Since retiring from full-time work in education, Rees had led the development of the UNAA Global Citizenship Schools and related programs.

Tell us a bit about UNNAWA and how the organisation developed…

“Supported by a dedicated Executive and Education Reference Group, we set out in 2016 to build a network of schools and curriculum resources that promote active global citizenship. In a world of rampaging nationalism, we aspire to support schools seeking a broader perspective of citizenship for their students. Global challenges require global solutions.

The UNESCO model for Global Citizenship Education (GCEd) provides an ideal pedagogic platform, confirmed by its underpinning of the new PISA Global Competence test (2018). We tested its alignment with the new WA curriculum, demonstrating that GCEd is a value-adding curriculum lens rather than additional curriculum content.

The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) provide a concrete, unifying context for engaging our youngsters with authentic, integrated learning and problem-solving wholly relevant to their futures. Through this mix, we are adding value to our WA ‘curriculum capital’.”

Can you tell us some of the success stored from UNNAWA?

“The UNAAWA GCEd Schools network now has 27 members (from Kindergarten to Year 12) and our digital resources bank has over 25 items aiming to support teachers’ and students’ understandings of the ideals and work of the UN. Nine experienced speakers have joined our ‘human library’ in the School Speakers program and we are in our third year of Student Parliaments. We attracted nearly 100 students from 15 schools in two ‘sittings’ of the parliament this year. They designed and pitched student-led, school-based SDG projects.

Three award programs use our global brand to promote outstanding GCEd initiatives in WA schools. The Yolande Frank Art Awards promote human rights education, engaging students (Year 4 to Year 12) in visually communicating a selected right. The Student Global Goals Challenge recognises student initiatives in one or more of the SDGs. The World Teachers’ Day Awards recognise diverse, outstanding teacher GCEd.

The School Curriculum and Standards Authority approval of the UNAAWA Global Citizenship and Sustainability program as WACE-endorsed units (2018 to 2022) is our most recent success. We aim to promote the creativity and intercultural understanding of our students by building a sample of their SDG innovations developed through this program. Year 10 STEM students at Shenton College who are piloting the program will provide our first samples and gain credit towards their WACE.”

How important have community partnerships been as you have developed and grown UNNAWA?

“The Learning Futures team at Curtin University was among the first to provide affirming support. Professor David Gibson, a world-recognised leader in his field, advised us that students participating in UNAAWA programs are eligible for Curtin SHAPE Scholarships. He encourages students to retain evidence of their learning through UNAAWA programs as ‘valuable Portfolio information about the kind of learning needed for the future’.

We now have a rapidly growing list of partnerships formed with like-minded groups including our member schools, Curtin Learning Futures, Fogarty EDfutures, One World Centre, Young Australians Plan for the Planet, Sustainable Schools Alliance WA, Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, Sustainable Development Goals Network and Meerilinga. These partnerships highlight the important unifying power of the SDGs and the critical role of civil society in progressing positive, democratic change.

We set out with a vision of empowering young Australians in our complex, uncertain world. The UNESCO GCEd model and UN SDGs provide our vehicle for achieving that vision. Our intergenerational work contributes to the moral imperative of building a fairer, sustainable world. Curriculum innovations like the UNAAWA WACE-endorsed units support schools wanting to provide highly relevant and engaging contexts for students to integrate and apply learning across the curriculum.”

Learn more about UNNAWA’s School programs.