A Visit to IDA: Tech Businesses & Schools Collaborate

Stepping through the front door of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) – http://www.ida.gov.sg/ – you get the sense of women and men on a mission. The first area we saw as we entered IDA Labs’ new Mapletree Business City location was a drone lab. Netting drops down from the ceiling to create an enclosed area for the scientists and technicians to test the drones they have designed and created.

IDA is a great model of collaboration between Singapore’s business and tech communities and the Singapore school system, through a strong partnership with Singapore’s Ministry of Education. The mission of IDA is to develop information technology and telecommunications within Singapore to serve citizens of all ages and companies of all sizes. The facility serves as a creative lab for start-ups and at the same time functions as a learning lab for students. As our group moved from the drone lab area we came upon a fabrication lab. The Fab Lab gives students access to technologies that may not be affordable in many school settings. 3-D printers provide the opportunity to design and produce multiple products, some of which were on display. In addition to giving students the tools to design and engineer prototypes and models, IDA is now also putting a priority on teaching students how to code.

Adrian Lim, Deputy Director Education Sector for IDA, welcomed the CoSN senior delegation to the IDA conference room. Adrian presented an in depth review of the history, practice and processes used by the staff, partners and school guests to leverage the opportunities IDA provides to build and support technology innovation for Singapore. At the core of the work IDA does with schools is the notion of not simply teaching technology, but using technology to learn target goals across multiple curriculum areas. IDA’s plan includes a three pronged approach: FutureSchools@Singapore; Experimentation@Schools; Infocomm@All Schools.

IDA reaches out to students by inviting them to come to the IDA facilities. In order to bring the labs to schools when students are not able to come to the IDA location, IDA recently launched the IDA Lab on Wheels, a traveling bus that houses engaging and experiential technology. The Lab on Wheels will visit schools across the island. This notion of bringing professional science and technology tools to schools is one that is beginning to be utilized in the US as well as Singapore. Klein ISD near Houston, Texas recently launch a similar mobile lab in the form of that district’s STEAM EXPRESS. (http://www.kleinisd.net/default.aspx?name=cisteam.home)

The IDA staff took the CoSN group on a tour of their new facility. Their hospitality and pride in their work was genuine and appreciated.