The Young Engineers programme uses Lego and K’nex kits to help children apply what they learn in science, maths and technology in a practical way.

Unlike traditional learning methods, edutainment is a fun approach to Stem, writes Sacha van Niekerk.

Using Lego and K’nex assembly kits, kids can take a more hands-on approach to learning about the world around them.

Adopting an edutainment approach in their programmes, Aroon Patel, engineer and franchise owner of Young Engineers Durban Central and North Coast, said: “We have developed a variety of different programmes that can be used to teach the most important subjects. Children joining our educational community can happily learn the likes of Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

Amir Asor, the founder of Young Engineers, is a computer science and economy graduate who struggled with learning disorders as a child. He volunteered as a paramedic in emergency rooms in hospitals and was enlightened by how they cared for patients.

“Basic principles of hospitals and emergency rooms started the idea of Young Engineers in his mind. It was the principle of individual care and personal attention to every single patient’s needs in a large group of patients,” said Patel.

“Asor understood then that a teacher in a class teaching in his own method without allowing every child to use his own learning capacity has much in common with a doctor entering a ward declaring: “Today everybody gets a flu shot!” Obviously, each patient has his own needs, and so has every student.”

The programme aims to prepare future generations of professionals.

Special programmes and workshops suited to children at both ends of the learning spectrum, from gifted children to those with learning disabilities, have been developed for the programme.

“Unlike traditional teaching methods, our use of stories, experiments and demonstrations ensures that all children joining our education programmes will learn while they have fun,” said Patel.

READ: How to make learning fun for students

“Eventually, one brave decision and personal experience gave Asor the privilege of creating the Young Engineers curriculum, which every child can understand and enjoy.”

Their focus is on the future generations of professionals.

“In order for entrepreneurial hi-tech economy to thrive, it is vital that the education system keeps producing highly skilled professionals.

“In other words, if our ‘Start-Up Nation’ is to flourish, we need to ensure the minds and talents required continues to emerge from our schools, colleges and universities.

“There is a major skills gap in the STEM fields in South Africa, and it starts from an early age. The passion needs to be brought in, the narrative changed and the drive and education needs to be brought to a growing country like South Africa.

“Young Engineers is an extramural programme, with classes held once a week for kids between the ages of 4 and 14. We have five different programmes that accommodate kids of that age.

“Any boy and girl can join at any time, and have fun while learning the complex subjects of Stem in a unique and thrilling way,” said Patel.

The lesson begins with a short five to 15-minute theory lesson, then the kids build a model, either out of K’nex or Lego which might move and show the concept taught.

The price to join is dependent on the age group and particular module and is in line with other extra-curricular activities.

Interesting stories and experiments are used to entice young audiences. “We use fun stories, experiments and engaging models to illustrate and demonstrate key concepts and principles.

“We encourage experimentation and creativity in every class, and ensure that there is sufficient variety and challenge for every learner.”

Patel encourages parents to enrol their children in programmes such as this as it exposes them to a wealth of knowledge and skills.

“This is such an amazing way of getting your children on the forefront of their education.

A lot of the topics we cover only get introduced at high school, and sometimes at university levels.

“Since we teach a short theoretical lesson and then the kids build motorised models out of Lego, the kids have so much fun applying theories learnt in a practical way,” he said.

* To join a free introductory lesson at any learning centre in Durban, contact Aroon Patel: [email protected]