By Kufre Etuk

LAGOS – The Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited, a Chevron Company, in collaboration with parties in Agbami field, has rewarded five public secondary schools that emerged top in the 2019 Agbami STEM Innovation Challenge Projects in Lagos State.

The Agbami Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) 2019 Symposium, with the theme “Advancing Innovation and Sustainable Development Through STEM”, was held recently at the Lagos Business School.

The Director, Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited Mr. Richard Kennedy, harped on the need for Federal Government to make STEM education a priority.

The Director who was represented by Manager, Policy Government Public Affairs Mr. Tom Akagbosu, called on youths to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels far exceeding what was considered acceptable in the past.

According to him, “ Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are undeniably some of the key subjects to study now because of the need for Nigeria to evolve the scientific and technological innovations needed to face the challenges of globalization and build an evolving knowledge-based economy.

“More importantly, STEM education is directly linked to global competitiveness and future economic prosperity of our country.

“We have invested over NGN 8.4 billion on the Agbami Medical and Engineering Scholarships (AMEPS), a merit-based programme, which targets capacity building for students of Medical and Engineering courses across the nation and this scheme has recorded an impressive total of 715 first class graduates.

“ Since inception, over 16,300 students from all the states of Nigeria have benefitted from the Agbami Medical and Engineering Scholarships.

“The Agbami parties have also spent over N5.8 billion on education infrastructure support since 2008. We have built, furnished and equipped 39 science laboratories, and 9 hybrid libraries across the country, which in addition to the benefits to the students, have also empowered several local community contractors during their construction.”

He commended efforts of Lagos Business School (LBS) in collaborating with the Agbami parties to organize the 2019 edition of Agbami Innovation Challenge.

Kennedy revealed that Chevron companies in Nigeria with their partners and parties have also collaborated with the Pan Atlantic University on various capacity development programmes including the recently concluded Advanced Writing and Reporting Skills (AWARES), which he said, has helped improve the capacity of over 100 media professionals in the country.

Project on display by one of the competing schools.

In his welcome address, Director, Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre, Prof. Chris Ogbechie noted that the objectives of this year’s STEM programme were to build stakeholders’ awareness on issues in STEM education, support STEM teachers with skills to imbibe in their students, and build design thinking capabilities among secondary school students.

Represented at the event by Prof. Olayinka David West, he decried that only few students in Nigeria have knowledge of the broad spectrum of opportunities offered through STEM education, blaming this on challenges in the education sector.

“Teachers of STEM-related subjects in Nigeria face the challenges of working with an outdated curriculum, poor teaching aids and school facilities as well as limited access to information on best practices.

“But STEM teachers and educators could act as catalysts to drive innovation, human and economic development, indeed national transformation by building the capabilities and minds of Nigeria’s next generation of STEM experts.”

The Director thanked Chevron Nigeria Ltd and the Agbami parties for their commitment in supporting STEM education, expressed hope of recording more impact of various social investment in the STEM education in Nigeria.

Giving highlight on STEM Teachers’ Training and Competition, the implementing partner for 2019 Agbami STEM programme, WAAW Foundation, said 30 teachers and 30 students were selected from various schools and trained for 8 days to work with available materials to solve human problems using SDGs.

The Chief Operating Officer, WAAW Foundation, Loveth Ubi averred that the main objectives of the programme were to familiarize participants with 2019 Agbami goals; train and guide students to employ their acquired skills and engage them to solve societal problems.

Ubi told the audience that 15 schools were selected to participate in this year’s Agbami project to work on solar energy, robotics, automation, water crisis, and wind energy, adding that 10 schools were eliminated from the selection challenge.

She assured that with constant interaction with the trained teachers, whom she said are mentors to the students, the foundation will keep taps on the progress of students who participated in the design competition.

In his remarks, the representative of Chevron Nigeria, Mr. Ugo Mgbemene Christopher thanked the Agbami parties and the implementing partner for making 2019 STEM event exceptional.

He expressed belief in the WAAW Foundation to deliver a better package next year should the foundation be given opportunity as implementing partner.

Winners of the 2019 STEM Innovation Project Competition displaying their cheques

Among the five public schools that participated in the 2019 STEM Innovation Challenge Projects, Iju Senior Grammar School with smart self-powered house project emerged first. Each of the two students who represented the school went home with N65,000 and an Arduino pack from WAAW foundation.

Abibat Mogaji Mellennium Senior Secondary School Iloro, Agege with Water Purification Project, came second while Santa Senior Grammar School with Wind Turbine Powered House Project emerged third. Each student in second and third positions received N55,000 and N50,000 respectively.

In their separate interviews, the two students who won the innovation challenge for Iju Senior Grammar School, Oloruntobi Aide and Nweke Chizoba said they were happy that their little efforts at solving societal problem earned them recognition.

They urged government to take the STEM project serious, and encouraged students to expand their knowledge base.

Also responding, a computer science teacher from Jakande Estate Comprehensive Senior College, Abesa, Mr. Soji Megbowon who participated in the eight days training for STEM instructors, said he was elated to have been part and parcel of those who mentored the students and promised to always do more to develop younger ones.

The event also featured STEM Talk-Feeding the Hungry Through Technology by Founder of Chowberry, Oscar Ekponimo; My STEM journey by Chevron Scholar, Mrs. Lucy Ikpesu; and a talk by Head Digital Innovation Lab, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, Mrs. Lola Ekugo.

The 2019 Agbami STEM innovation challenge was held at Lagos Business School, witnessed by dignitaries from all walks of life including Prof. Adewale Solarin, Dr. Edwin Agwu, Funke Oyesun and Oyinka Onigbogi who all served as judges in the competition, including permanent secretary and Directors from Lagos State Ministry of Education.