Phub Dem | PAro

Tandin Wangmo, a Class IX student at Buli Central School, describes her travel outside Zhemgang to attend the first-ever Girls’ STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) camp in Paro as an “awakening.”

She said that having grown up in one of the remote parts of the country, it was like travelling to a completely different world.

Tall buildings amazed her. Tandin Wangmo heard about 3D designing and printing, facial recognition, and space technology for the first time.

Like Tandin Wangmo, 48 girls from 48 different schools across the country took part in the three-day STEM camp.

The theme for the Girls’ STEM camp 2021 is: “Nothing in the world a girl can’t do”.

The camp aims to inspire girls in secondary schools to embrace science subjects.

According to the Bhutan National Commission for UNESCO, Science is not popular among female students in Bhutan. Gender stereotypes, peer pressure and low self-esteem are issues that the students must deal with in their academic journey.

The camp’s aim is to demystify STEM and help students relate what they learn in school to practical applications in their daily lives through demonstrations and practice.

The girls were introduced to coding, robotics, and the development of technological applications.

Hemanta Gurung, a Class IX student of Mendrelgang Higher Secondary School, said she was fascinated by 3D printing and realised that women could take up STEM careers.

Science being her favourite subject, she said that such a camp marked the beginning of opportunities and inspiration for most girls.

The camp is expected to improve the science curricula through hands-on experimentation to understand science better and promote gender equality and scientific literacy.

According to the organiser, the camp will ensure that girls are equipped with the necessary skills to overcome gender stereotypes that hamper their entry into STEM fields, while empowering them to become powerful agents for gender equality in STEM.

The programmes are expected to spark students’ interest in STEM-related areas.

Chief programme officer of the Bhutan National Commission for UNESCO, Wangchuk Bidha, said that the participants must share their camp experiences with their school and impart what they have learnt to their friends and classmates. They are the ambassadors and advocates for STEM activities in their school.

The participants visited the Royal Academy at Pangbisa, the National Seed Centre, and the airport to get hands-on experience with space technology, artificial production of plants, tissue culture, and to interact with female engineers and pilots.

They also attended workshops on hydropower research and development, facial recognition, 3D designing and printing, electronic design, the Internet of Things, and prototyping.

The Bhutan National Commission for UNESCO organised the camp in collaboration with the Department of IT and Telecom (DITT) and the Druk Green Power Corporation.