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Stamford American School has a forward-looking global mentorship program
A forward-looking global mentorship program is a key feature at Stamford American School Hong Kong, which started classes at its Ho Man Tin campus in September.
The aim is to give students new insights and interests by teaming up with thought leaders and speakers who are experts in diverse fields, including science, sports, music, and the performing arts. These Global Mentors aim to inspire students to achieve more than they believe they can, which is the school’s vision.
The most recent event took place in late November, and focused on the world of IT, explaining how applied research backed by astute investment is creating high-tech solutions which have a far-reaching impact.
Addressing 11- to 13-year-olds in Grades 5 to 7, Bay McLaughlin, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Brinc, an IoT accelerator, explained how his company identifies and supports start-ups, many of which have already gone on to enjoy significant commercial success.
Along the way, McLaughlin also emphasized the opportunities technology will continue bring in Hong Kong and around the world. It is reshaping business and industry and, of course, changing many aspects of everyday life. Therefore, he noted, young people benefit from being familiar with the basics of coding and having the skills to devise innovative IT-based solutions for real-world problems.
“As one of the school’s Global Mentors, my role is to give students exposure to what is happening beyond the classroom, and to introduce different career pathways,” McLaughlin says. “I speak about learning the right skills and the importance of having the right environment, at school and at home, to make use of new technology every day.”
McLaughlin started Brinc as an accelerator to guide and invest in new ventures. The company has since expanded to include a product design studio and an education platform with offices in six countries around the world.
In business terms, the main objective is to find “people with ideas” and receive applications from them, which can then be developed into commercially viable products. But McLaughlin is also passionate about spreading the word to the younger generation, ensuring they know about the tools and technology available, and encouraging them to explore the full range of possibilities – not just messaging and gaming.
“The response from the students at Stamford was awesome,” he says. “They were interested and enthusiastic, and that’s a sign the school is teaching in the right way. If I can then show them what’s possible in the world for someone like me, who comes from the pre-internet generation, I hope that can serve to inspire them.”
The next step for the students may be a visit to Brinc’s offices in Central to take a closer look at what lies behind some of the 32 successful products the company has helped develop over the last three years.
These include, for example, a device to remind elderly patients to take their daily medication, another for monitoring blood pressure, and one to help beginners keep proper time when learning to play music. Other inventions are designed to help shrimp farmers boost output, and to increase palm oil production from current plantations, thereby reducing the need to clear more of the rain forest.
“We believe in solving real-world problems where possible, rather than focusing on gadgets,” McLaughlin says. “Of course, the technology will keep changing, so today’s students need the hard skills in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects which underpin everything.”
In a separate session with teachers and parents, he noted the widespread concerns about children spending too much time online and using devices, and the consequent need to negotiate and respect clear rules and limits. In this context, adults have must play their part by finding a balance, dictating values, imposing boundaries, and acting as good role models.
“Parents must be ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn along with their children,” he says. “It’s important to get the kids excited, but parents should also be involved in a deeper dialogue about what works best and where it is going. So, l walk through the concerns they have, using examples from my own experience about things like testing augmented reality on an iPhone, buying bitcoin, or watching TED talks on a YouTube channel. That can give parents ideas and confidence about creating the right environment at home.”
Separately, Lisa Olinski, Stamford’s Marketing Manager, noted that the school has around 350 students ranging from Pre-Primary level up to Grade 7. The intention is to add an extra level each year as the senior students move up to Grade 12 culminating with the IB diploma.
“We had digital citizenship training as part of a unit of inquiry in Grade 7 and the students signed a digital citizenship oath,” Olinski says. “We strongly believe in safeguarding our students, including in the digital space, and our STEMinn (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Innovation Program) is threaded throughout the curriculum.”