Teach For Malaysia alumni Nigel Sim, Chong Zhi Xiong, and Rachel Francis launched their STEM education initiative Chumbaka with a clear vision: within one year they would test their curriculum (which focuses on developing both technology and life skills), by the third year they would go mobile, and within five years they would set up a school. Now, two years in, things haven’t gone exactly according to plan—they went mobile this summer, a full year ahead of schedule.
Chumbaka’s mission is to teach children across Malaysia science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through creative learning workshops. Since its launch, however, the team’s limited capacity has meant that Chumbaka was only available to children in the state of Selangor. The idea to go mobile was spurred by their desire to expand Chumbaka’s reach to as many children in Malaysia as possible.
Earlier this year, the Malaysian crowdfunding platform Webe Community invited teams to submit innovative solutions to challenging problems. A shortlist of solutions was then published online, for visitors to vote on and pledge their support. Chumbaka’s project Maker Mobile, which envisioned expanding the initiative across Peninsular Malaysia to reach 30 schools in 30 days, was the winning entry.
With a focus on developing four types of skills: coding, robotics, arduino (an open-source electronics platform with easy-to-use hardware and software), and 3D printing, Maker Mobile’s customized mobile learning unit brought exciting three-hour-workshops to 900 students over the course of four weeks. The volunteer mentors were a group of university students majoring in STEM who Chumbaka provided with training and a stipend for travel and accommodation. Mentors helped students design their own games, musical instruments, and houses, build and program robots, and more.
The co-founders view the project as a success, and are hoping to attract another corporate partner to launch Mobile Maker 2.0 so Chumbaka can reach more schools and introduce students and teachers to technologies not commonly used in Malaysian classrooms. At the same time, Chumbaka continues to partner with 10 schools where they operate on a weekly basis, in order to build the knowledge and experience they’ll need to launch a school of their own within a few years. They envision their school to be a place where students can discover their own talent and potential in STEM and other subjects, while gaining the skills they need to navigate and lead the world they’ll inherit.