Tech Dome Penang was formed upon Penang State Government initiative as one of the five key pillars of the Penang Science Cluster. The formation of Tech Dome Penang with its missions as outlined below was in response to the growing need for talent in the fields of science, engineering and technology and to arrest the decline in knowledge, interest and competitiveness in these fields amongst Malaysian students and the general public.

Launch of Tech Dome Penang Website - www.techdomepenang.org

Speech by Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng

Posted on February 21, 2014

Background

Tech Dome Penang was formed upon Penang State Government initiative as one of the five key pillars of the Penang Science Cluster. The formation of Tech Dome Penang with its missions as outlined below was in response to the growing need for talent in the fields of science, engineering and technology and to arrest the decline in knowledge, interest and competitiveness in these fields amongst Malaysian students and the general public.

Penang has a strong foundation in the technology sector as a result of decades of growth and experience, especially in the electrical and electronics industry. However, studies are showing a continuing decline in the standards for science and technology in Malaysia. Results of the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that the standard of mathematics and science among Malaysian students have been dropping since 2003, and compared to all other countries, Malaysia is the country with the biggest and most drastic drop in scores from 1999 to 2011. In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2011 that compares mathematics and science literacy of 15 year olds in OECD and non OECD countries, the assessment of Malaysian students showed that the average science and mathematics ability in Malaysia is ranked 52nd place, which is in the last one-third of the 65 countries assessed. These scores were recognised as a symptom of poor public understanding and appreciation for science and technology. A survey published by the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MOSTI) in 2008 reported that 33.7% of Malaysians were notinterested and only 5.6% were very interested in inventions and discoveries in science, medicine and new technologies. For comparison, a similar survey in the USA in 2006 showed a converse pattern where only 8.5% of Americans were not interested and 28.7% were veryinterested.

Meanwhile, Malaysia continues to play a pivotal role in global economic and social development as a key member of ASEAN. The unique role and position of Malaysia in this region requires that we not only address current human resource needs, but also continue to nurture local confidence in the use and construction of technology and knowledge so that Malaysians may better participate in addressing international social, environmental and other real world challenges.

Therefore, work began in ernest in 2010 to develop plans for Tech Dome Penang as a technology centre that is a hub for technology learning and exchange of ideas. The objective is to be a vehicle for improving scientific literacy and technology acumen in Malaysia. Located in the Geodesic Dome of KOMTAR just adjacent to the George Town UNESCO Heritage Site, the Centre will provide a platform for people from all walks of life to discover the wonders of technology and to develop their technology skills and potential. Regular programs will be conducted for schools, colleges and families that are specially designed to cultivate the spirit of inquiry and teach children and teenagers the skills required to thrive in a high-tech, knowledge-based future.

Mission

To inspire children and students to become future technologists and nurture the interest to use and invent technology.

• To cultivate the spirit of inquiry and nurture the passion to thrive in the fields of science, engineering and technology.

•To showcase the progress of the world’s technology and innovation.

•To highlight the convergence of technology, industry and people.

Current Activities

1. Engagement with key government agencies and corporations to identify programming of the Centre.

Meetings were held with key government agencies (Penang Chief Minister’s Office, Khazanah Nasional, Invest Penang, Penang Development Corporation, Penang Skills Development Corporation, Penang Institute) and more than 20 multinational and large local corporations to receive their feedback on the goal and missions and to survey their needs and recommendations for exhibit content and programming of the Centre.

Outcomes from these meetings:

• The following focus areas were identified based on current and projected concentration of industries in Penang: Electronics & Computing; Software & Programming; Lighting; Robotics; Lifesciences & Medical Technology; Penang’s Transformation.

• To develop the Centre as a “public space” which is defined as a space where families and youth would enjoy frequenting on weekends and after school instead of outlets such as shopping malls, internet cafes or cinemas.

• Several companies committed technical personnel (engineers / researchers / academics) to assist with the development of content for the Centre. These agencies and corporations are updated and consulted regularly throughout the planning of the Centre.

2. Engagement with schools and educationists to identify programs that are lacking in the school system that could be addressed in the Centre.

More than 100 local and international secondary schools (ages 12 to 18) were invited to participate in round table meetings to discuss how they would use such a Centre and survey recommendations for exhibit content and programming. 27 schools attended these meetings and several teachers volunteered to contribute more actively in the development of exhibits and programs. All schools expressed that Penang has very few places for school excursions; Hence this Centre would be a much welcomed and sorely needed addition to the Penang environment.

• The Centre will have maps and guides to assist teachers on using the Centre, explaining exhibits to students and preparing effective lesson plans.

• Exhibit development or guides for exhibits should take into account school syllabus, so that technology exhibit may be linked to topics in school syllabus to make it easier for students to connect with lessons in school. This will also help students to see the relevance of studying science beyond rote learning of textbooks.

3. Set-up of technical subcommittees to advise on content and relevance.

To date, four subcommittees comprising technical experts volunteered from companies were formed for the following technology sectors – Electronics & Computing; Lighting; Robotics; Life Sciences & Medical Technology.

Each of these subcommittees convened at least 3 times where content structure and details were discussed. Recommendations were forwarded to design consultants for incorporation into concept.

4. Concept Development

Huettinger, a Germany-based consultant was commissioned for concept design. Work completed in this phase includes space planning, storyline for galleries, preliminary research on condition of existing building, preparation of accessibility and traffic flow, 3D perspective drawings per gallery and preliminary interior estimates.

5. Community Engagement & Team Development

Tech Dome Penang ensures that it engages with the local community via regular stakeholder meetings with government, industry and educationists.It participated in the highly-successful Penang International Science Fair held in April 2013 which successfully drew an estimated crowd turnout of more than 30,000. The high turnout bears testimony that, despite the declining standards in science and technology, there is still a core base of young minds with interests in the field of science and technology.

6. Fundraising

RM 23 million is needed to make Tech Dome Penang a reality. RM 10 million will be used for exhibits, RM 12 million will be used for renovations and construction and RM 1 million will be used for operations.

To date, we have received contribution of RM 2.5 million from the Private Sector and RM 1.15 million from the Penang State Government. A further RM 2.3 million has been pledged from companies in the Private Sector.

Fundraising of Tech Dome Penang is on-going. The press conference today is to officially launch the Tech Dome Penang website - http://www.techdomepenang.org - to encourage members of the public to contribute towards the development of Tech Dome Penang. Tech Dome Penang has been recognized by the Malaysian Ministry of Finance as a project of National Important. Therefore, any cash contribution to Tech Dome Penang is tax-deductible.