Zartaj Waseem, CEO & Co-Founder, Pakistan Space Science Education Centre (PSSEC) talks to Karvan about PSSEC’s mission. Zartaj is also a FIRST Global Task Force Member | WRO National Organizer for Pakistan
1. Tell us about yourself?
I am a budding Tech Eduprepneur currently spearheading Pakistan’s 1st dedicated Space Science-based STEM Education initiative as CEO & Co-Founder. I am a software engineer by profession and I embarked on my STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Education journey in 2010. I have been a Robotics Trainer and have led multiple international STEM programs in Pakistan like the FIRST Lego League, FIRST Global and World Robot Olympiad (WRO).
Moreover, I am an international judge for leading Robotics Competitions. I am also a mentor, coach and an inspiring role model for the youth who aspire to pursue STEM Careers along with being an advocate of women empowerment. Through +PSSEC I strive to advance UN Sustainable Development Goals and empower the youth including girls with the mindset and skillset of the future.
2. What motivated you to establish Pakistan Space Science Education Centre (PSSEC)?
My partner and the second Co-Founder of +PSSEC, Nahyan Farooq, has been working as a Space Science Educator in Australia for more than four years now. He discussed the idea of introducing Space Science Education in Pakistan with me in 2015. Hence his idea together with my passion for doing something innovative and disruptive for our country led us to establish the Pakistan Space Science Education Centre.
3. What mission is the PSSEC following?
+PSSEC is Pakistan’s 1st Space Science-based STEM Education initiative with a mission to inspire the young generation to become scientists and engineers empowered with 21st-century skills and an innovative mindset with a focus on women empowerment.
4. You are Founder Robotics and STEM Studio at Haque Academy. Tell us more about this?
Robotics & STEM Studio was founded as part of Haque Academy, which is quite a progressive K-12 institution in Karachi. I began my STEM Education journey from there with the support of the senior management. The idea was to give the students of Haque Academy exposure to STEM-based programs by introducing Robotics and other tech tools to improve the students’ learning experience.
5. What made you develop an interest in robotics and science?
As I like doing unusual things particularly what no one else is doing, Robotics back in 2010 at the school level was one such opportunity. When I made my first robot using the Lego Mindstorms set in April 2010 I felt very excited. I wondered if I am enjoying it so much then my students would be more excited if they were given this tool. And then I started self-learning about Robotics and how teaching Robotics integrates with other subjects that students study at school.
6. How can students develop a curiosity for science?
Children are curious by birth. Curiosity is an innate human trait. We need to disrupt our education systems to be able to nurture it in them from early childhood. It is the man’s curiosity that has led to discoveries in space science and other fields.
7. How was your experience of representing Pakistan at International Robotics Competitions?
In 2014 I took a team of school children for the first time at FIRST Lego League Robotics World Festival. It was an amazing learning experience for me and my students. We felt honored to represent Pakistan at such a magnificent event. Since then I have been fortunate to represent Pakistan for the first time at many forums including International Robotics Championships, in Bath, UK, Byblos Lebanon, U.S. pretty much every year as an International Award Judge, at Destination Imagination Global Final and in the capacity of the National Organizer for World Robot Olympiad (WRO) since June 2018.
8. How much has Pakistan evolved when it comes to robotics?
In terms of Robotics in Education, the program is only accessible to very few elite schools in major cities. There are about 15 STEM Education organizations focused on Robotics that offer entertainment-based Robotics programs. A couple of them have developed their robotics kits and offer a curriculum with it too. In terms of advancements in Robotics Technology, Pakistan is yet to come up with something. This brings me to the point that I always emphasize and is my organization’s mission, that it is a dire need for Pakistan to focus on providing STEM-based education to our young generation and inspire them to become scientists and engineers as they are going to solve the problems that Pakistan faces. This will put our country on the path of economic growth.
9. You are leading the Destination Imagination (DI) at Haque Academy. What is DI and how it benefits the students?
Destination Imagination is one of the international STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) based programs that develop 21st-century skills in an integrative, blended learning manner. Students explore themes and develop projects by applying their knowledge of not only the aforementioned subjects but also Language Arts, History and others to work together and develop ethical work habits while strengthening their concepts learned in the classroom.
10. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
I would advise our youth to be empathetic and passionate about whatever they choose to do. Today there are more opportunities than ever for the ones who are self-learners and self-reliant. They should make an effort to make this world a better and happy place. If you’re determined about what you want to achieve with fair intention, trust me, the sky is the limit and Allah will guide you to the right path.
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