Problem: In Saudi Arabia, 70% of the population is less than 30 years old; however, the country is devoid of a connection between these young adults and the arts, the channels of communication and the STEM disciplines (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Projects that address the need of education in these disciplines are rare, notwithstanding their importance in the development of world-conscious citizens and future leaders. To resolve these issues, the initiative, which was launched in 2011, created a student-centered educational model that was contrary to the traditional educational system. The project focuses on the development of scientific knowledge and 21st century skills, such as creativity, empathy and teamwork.
Solutions: The project conducts educational programs that are creative and adaptive, offering content to teachers and students of various age groups. The project's main focal points are creativity, the professional enrichment of the teacher, the STEM disciplines, hands-on activities, inspired learning, the development of the child's personality, the selection of their academic and professional path and lifelong learning. The project intends to promote the transition of Saudi Arabia towards a society that is based on knowledge.
The institution conducts various types of programs. The iDiscover program, for example, consists of a thematic immersion in the sciences and mathematics for students and teachers during the holidays. The program for teachers lasts five days and includes activities between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.; whereas the student program lasts 10 days, with activities occurring between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The iSpark Mobile program consists of 20 hour work shops, over a period of one week, in urban and rural public schools, which aim to inspire elementary school students to enroll in four STEM discipline programs. Students are required to undertake hands-on activities that stimulate creativity as they learn about science, engineering, art and the various medias. The iWander program, on the other hand, is an international scientific expedition that is geared towards the best students from the iDiscover program, who visit technology centers and museums. In this program, students receive intensive training in the English language. The iBroadcast program is a portal that hosts the scientific content of the online programs in order to monitor the development of the students and to enrich Arab content online. A TV program was also created that is geared towards the education and entertainment of children; it was viewed more than 60 million times in 2014 alone. Lastly, iRead is a reading festival that is held to elect the reader of the year through a competition that is associated with reading and discussion sessions.
Outcomes: Participation in these programs is inspiring for young adults, as it incites them to engage more in their studies and transforms and develops their leadership qualities. Questionnaires that were applied to the students uncovered a major increase in their interest in the sciences, engineering and robotics. The students' capacity to communicate, explore and utilize scientific and engineering concepts greatly increased. Participants also began to view teamwork as being very positive and valuable. The project, which has already provided more than 1.5 million class hours to students and teachers, intends to reach two million students by the year 2020. The institution works in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, in the United States, in the development of technology to contribute to the formation of students that are benefitted by this initiative.