THE 21-day lockdown has not only forced people to stay indoors but has also dramatically changed the way people relate to one another, live, work, and educate children. These shifts have enabled by smart technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, augmented reality, and more; these have also been said to be some of the major shifts when transitioning into the fourth industrial revolution. In an attempt to equip pupils for the revolution, learning centre e2 Young Engineers has been providing educational enrichment programmes with theoretical training and practical implementation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) basics to children aged four to 14 years old.The centre‘s programmes involve the integration of their custom designed K’nex, Algo Brix and LEGO bricks kits with scientific, mathematical and software engineering principles to make the material more edutainment (education plus entertainment) focused.According to Pierre le Roux, the centre’s business development manager, the main goal of the programme is to illustrate engineering principles through experiments and demonstrations.“Our students will learn Stem principles through intuitive study, develop their independent learning and improve their 21st century skills; like time planning, management skills, independent and creative thinking skills, etc,” said le Roux, who added that their programmes enhance and develop Early Childhood Development skills and school readiness.According to Le Roux, research has shown that children participating in their programme achieve higher grades in all Stem subjects taught at school.But because of the national state of disaster and all schools are closed, the centre has temporarily suspend all Young Engineers classes until after the Easter weekend.Speaking about the centre’s programmes, Le Roux said the e2 Young Engineers has six programmes based on Stem, and present extra-mural classes once a week at either after school clubs or in curriculum at schools or external learning centres.The centre’s programmes include: Big Builders for Grades RR to R, which gets your child school ready; Bricks Challenge for the foundation phase, which develops 21st century skills; Algo Play, also for the foundation phase, where pupils learn the fundamentals of coding; Robo Bricks (foundation phase) which cultivates algorithmic thinking; Galileo Technic for the intermediate phase, which helps pupils master the inner workings of machines and robots; and Robotics (intermediate phase), which teaches pupils to conquer robotics and software engineering.“All of our programmes have a full curriculum which is aligned with the CAPS/IEB curriculum aims. We also have a specialised programme for autistic pupils and for children with ADD/ADHD,” said Le Roux.Le Roux also explained why there was a need for an initiative centre like e2 Young Engineers, saying: “Skills like fine motor, spatial, problem solving, communication and critical thinking skills are lacking in general by children at all levels in schools.”Furthermore, Le Roux said their programmes also includes Spiral Learning and Problem, Project and Product-Based Learning (PBL).According to Le Roux, the programmes have been running for 11 years internationally and for six years (with more than 33 franchises) in South Africa.“We also have an EDSA Foundation through which we intend implementing our programmes to previously disadvantaged schools through private sector funding.“We have partnered with local organisations like the KZN Museum and WESSA uMngeni Valley in Howick,” said Le Roux.After being with e2 Young Engineers for 18 months, the manager said he is excited about how the business has grown over the past year and said he is glad to see how pupils have developed different skills.In speaking about the pupils’ strengths and weaknesses, Le Roux said there have been improvements in listening and communication skills. However, Le Roux said the pupils have also shown poor organisational skills, such as perseverance and creative skills.The centre has received both positive and negative feedback from parents and pupils.“In the positive, there has been improved academic performance at school. Pupils are playing and building constructively with the LEGO toys at home. There is also improved problem solving and decision making,” said Le Roux.The centre manager also added that although the programme was explained to parents, the negative feedback comes with parents who still think the programme can be compared to LEGO Technic toys [not an educational programme] which can be commercially bought in stores.The manager also highlighted the centre’s challenges, saying they include poor understanding of the programmes by the public and a lack of urgency by school management to allow these programmes to be presented at schools.“Some of our goals include implementing our programmes at all schools in the Pietermaritzburg and Howick area, including at disadvantaged schools via our EDSA Foundation,” said Le Roux.Speaking about the programme, Cyril Naidoo, the parent of Grade 3 Allandale Primary pupil Danicia Naidoo, said: “The young engineers programme has certainly supercharged Danicia’s interest in understanding of technology, innovation and science. The discipline and methodology has also positively transformed her into being more organised and focused in her daily life. She has a new thirst for understanding how things work and often thinks of alternative ways of dealing with issues.“After just two years of part-time participation, she now understands motion, power transfer systems and propulsion. She has constructed a crane, elevator, drill, and a motorised car which she raced against her colleagues and won.“The programme is an excellent career guide, a great general knowledge builder and a fantastic confidence builder. I certainly recommend the programme, not only to future engineers but to all pupils, as knowledge is power that no one can take away. Thank you to the dedicated team for helping with Danicia’s phenomenal development.”For more information on the centre, contact Le Roux at 033 347 1214 or e-mail email@example.com.