Holiday workshop on agricultural and microbiological science

UTAR Faculty of Science (FSc) and Centre for Agriculture and Food Research (CAFR) jointly organised a community project named “EduFun AgriMicrob Science Holiday Workshop” on 28 and 29 December 2021 at UTAR Kampar Campus. It was a two-day physical workshop organised by a team of academics from the Department of Agricultural and Food Science (DAFS) as well as Department of Biological Science (DBS) of Faculty of Science (FSc). This workshop was sponsored by Nature’s Best Sdn Bhd, Zugar Sdn Bhd and Humibox Sdn Bhd.

Group photo during the opening ceremony of EduFun AgriMicrob Science Holiday Workshop

The purpose of this workshop was to inculcate interest among the young and to instil knowledge of the many applications of agricultural and microbiological sciences in our daily lives, as well as in industrial applications. The science workshop was designed to provide hands-on experience to secondary school and schooler leavers as well as offering an opportunity to learn, interact and discuss with the facilitators who are experts of their respective fields.

The opening ceremony was kick-started by welcome speeches delivered by FSc Dean Assoc Prof Dr Lim Tuck Meng, the organising committee chairperson-cum-DAFS Head Dr Ong Mei Kying, and Centre for Agriculture and Food Research Chairperson Assoc Prof Dr Wong Wey Lim.

Dr Ong welcoming all the participants

On behalf of the organising committee, Dr Ong welcomed all the participants. She said, “This is the first-ever workshop related to microbiology, agronomy, aquaculture and animal science for high schoolers aged between 16 to 18 years old from various schools in Malaysia. Our facilitators have customised this workshop to be fun-filled, interesting and promoting various core and holistic skills. I would also like to extend my gratitude to all the sponsors, namely Nature’s Best Sdn Bhd, Zugar Sdn Bhd and Humibox Sdn Bhd, in making this workshop fully funded and free admission for all participants. In addition, they have generously supported the UTAR Hospital Project with monetary contribution. Thank you. Your generous and supportive acts tremendously meant a lot for the benefits of the community.”

Dr Wong during his welcome speech

Dr Wong enthused, “Many of us have learnt and experienced the usefulness of science and technology in battling the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Not only can Science be used to solve our daily problems but it can also create new technologies for mankind in the future. Through this workshop, we hope to share our knowledge in agriculture, microbiology and food science with the young in hopes of them acquiring our passion in science and use the knowledge to find new solutions in order to make our world a more sustainable place. After this event, I hope everyone of you will expand your knowledge and continue your journey to search for novel innovations.”

Dr Lim encouraging students to involve in hands-on Science activities

Dr Lim stressed on the importance of practical experiments in science. He said, “You have been staying at home for the last two years and learning through a screen. Now, it is the time for you to come out and experience a different type of study. ‘Science’ is a term that we hear about and use a lot, but it is a term that not many people truly understand. ‘Science’ is knowledge accumulated through a systematic way of observing and experimenting on the structure and behaviour of the natural world. If you can make use of the knowledge of Science and then help to improve the quality of human life, that is technology.”

He added, “There is always a connection between Science and Technology, if you know the knowledge of Science then you can explain a lot of things and do things better without going against nature, which is natural, right and sustainable, as well as being more efficient without destroying or change how nature work. Doing this ensures that our lives can carry on and continue for many years into the future. So, Science is always applicable in the society to help improve the quality of life. To be involved in science, is to understand the nature. In this workshop, the science lecturers will show you how interesting Science can be. The joy of gaining knowledge outside the classroom is to experience how scientists work.”

Also present at the opening ceremony was the Nature's Best and Zugar CEO Ng Kar Lee who was later presented with a token of appreciation for supporting this meaningful workshop. 

Nature's Best and Zugar CEO Linus Ng representing all the three sponsors companies in receiving the token of appreciation from FSc Dean Dr Lim

The highlights of the workshop were the interesting and educational hands-on activities related to agricultural and microbiological sciences at different stations. These activities include terrarium making, biofertilizer making, the measurement and dissection of fish, studying the morphology and anatomy of prawn and bivalve, macromolecule essay in milk products, goat pregnancy detection, staining of microorganisms, breakdown of starch and hydrogen peroxide by microbes, as well as the chemical control of microorganisms.

The workshop was divided into four stations. Each station was facilitated by seasoned academics from FSc, UTAR, with the assistance of UTAR student helpers. Among the stations set up were “Workshop Station 1: Agronomy” Dr Clement Wong Kiing Fook and Dr Tan Ji; “Workshop Station 2: Aquaculture” by Dr Ooi Ai Lin and Teoh Chaiw Yee; “Workshop Station 3: Animal Science” by Dr Kwong Phek Jin and Nurdiyana ’Aqilah binti Roslan as well as “Workshop Station 4: Microbiology” by Dr Lee Kok Chang and Dr Teo Kah Cheng.

One of the student participants from Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Lenggong, Sayed Ahmad bin Sayed expressed his excitement in joining the workshop. He said, “My mother, Dr Nor Ismaliza binti Mohd Ismail is a lecturer in UTAR’s Department of Biological Science., My passion in Science was inspired by my mother. I really enjoyed this workshop as I have gained so much knowledge from the activities. I enjoyed the experiments of Iodine Test for Starch and Biuret test for protein at Station 3: Animal Science. I still remembered what the lecturer has taught about the Iodine test. It can be used to identify starch, reducing sugars, proteins and fats.”

Sayed Ahmad (left) and his mother Dr Nor Ismaliza (right)

Another participant who came from Selangor SMK Bukit Rahman, Foo Fang Qing said, “I came to know about this workshop on Sin Chew Daily. I came with my younger sisters and I wish to explore more about the Science behind Agriculture and Microbiology. I like the Goat Pregnancy Detection activity at Station 3. It was an activity to expose student to the basics of pregnancy detection using an ultrasound machine. It is a wonderful experience as we seldom get to see a real goat, lest the opportunity to detect their pregnancy using ultrasound machine. I would like to join other workshops organised by UTAR in the future.”

Foo taking a photo at the Fsc block in UTAR

Yang Wen Jia, who completed her studies at Kuala Lumpur Tsun Jin High School, expressed her gratitude for the wonderful hands-on experience in the workshop. She enthused, “I like science activities that can be done with my own hands because the hands-on learning method makes any Science knowledge easier to be understood and remembered. As I know one of my group members is just a primary school student. but she was able to understand the Science theories taught by the lecturers through the experiments conducted in this workshop.”

She re-called a fun part of this workshop, “All of us are able to bring back some science materials done by ourselves. For instances, I was allowed to bring home my own terrarium and biofertiliser made during the activities at the Agronomy Station. I truly thank UTAR for organising this workshop.”

Yang at the at the Goat Shed of UTAR’s Agricultural Park

The workshop ended with a closing speech given by Dr Lim Tuck Meng. In his closing speech, Dr Lim said, “After participating in all the workshops of this event, I hope you have experienced something different about learning. Learning is about knowledge; learning is not about exams. Science is about seeking knowledge of nature, and the activities that you have participated in these two days were purposely designed to highlight to you just that.”

Perhaps, this will be a good beginning for you to rekindle your interests in Science, and to learn using the right way, rather than just memorizing the syllabus in order to pass your exam. The world is always in need of innovation and good scientists, and if you have the passion to walk this meaningful path, our doors will always be opened for you.”

The event concluded with a certificate-giving ceremony to all the student participants. 

Dr Tan showing the different types of humidity-loving of plants suitable for a terrarium at Workshop Station 1: Agronomy

Student participants making their own terrariums at Workshop Station 1: Agronomy

Dr Clement Wong showing how biofertilisers can be made using spores of Trichoderma, a fungus capable of fixing nitrogen at Workshop Station 1: Agronomy

Student participants making their own biofertilizers at Workshop Station 1: Agronomy

Dr Ooi explaining the external anatomy of a prawn to the student participants at Workshop Station 2: Aquaculture

Dr Teoh conducting the dissection of a fish at Workshop Station 2: Aquaculture

Students dissecting fish at Workshop Station 2: Aquaculture

Dr Kwong showing participants how to visualize the presence of goat foetus and placentomes using ultrasound at Workshop Station 3: Animal Science

Student participants taking a group photo at the Goat Shed of UTAR’s Agricultural Park

Student participants performing the Iodine test for starch and Biuret test for proteins at Workshop Station 3: Animal Science

Dr Teo (left) and Dr Lee (right) conducting Workshop Station 4: Microbiology

Student helper Sabrina L. Thuraisingam (right) assisting student participant in doing the microorganisms experiments at Workshop Station 4: Microbiology

Student participants using the microscope at Workshop Station 4: Microbiology

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