Big Bang Academy
The impact of education
My years in Cambridge impressed upon me the importance of a good education. Cambridge has helped me to develop an informed curiosity and a passion for learning. Upon graduation, I took a job in finance as I was intrigued by the way capital markets developed and how important they are to modern society.
My background in science and engineering has always driven me to constantly learn new things. When my work in the finance sector became too routine, I felt I needed to venture out of my depth and to carve a new path in my career.
Q. What was the impetus for Big Bang Academy?
The turning point that kick-started this initiative was a conversation with my cousin. She asked me, if I were to do anything to make a change or an impact upon society, what it would it be. The first thing that sprang to mind was to inspire more children to fall in love with learning science.
There’s a distinct childhood memory I would describe as the ’lightbulb’ moment when I found my passion in science. At the age of around five to six, my parents would discourage my siblings and me from watching too much television. When their entreaties seemed to fall upon deaf ears, they decided to cut off the source completely. One day, I came home to find that the TV could not be switched on. After a thorough check, I came to the conclusion that it had to be broken, since the switch was in the right place. But when my parents returned home from work, it would work fine again. I spent days investigating the TV and its circuits, finally realising that there was a tiny compartment in the circuit which was missing a very small tube inside. I searched the house inside out and eventually found the correctly sized tube in my parents’ closet. They had removed the fuse so the TV could not be switched on! From that moment, I knew that science could help me solve problems (not being able to watch TV being my biggest problem as a kid!); the experience taught me not to give up and to keep looking for solutions.
It was this positive, joyful memory that inspired me to read more about, and develop my interest in, science. There is an increasing demand for talent in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. More often than not, science is taught by rote learning and memorisation which renders it overly complex and dull. I believe that a fun, hands-on experience could have a huge impact on a child. I want to recreate these ’lightbulb moments’ for children who often face immense academic pressure and therefore overlook the joy in learning.
Forming the business idea
From that day onwards, I was determined to find a way to work towards my new goal. Most of my friends work in finance so I had no connections to the education sector. I felt it important to gain experience in the field, so I took on part-time science instructor jobs during the weekend alongside my fulltime banking job. I also volunteered to teach hands-on science classes at a local community center with lessons I designed myself. My most memorable experience was teaching a class of 20 young kids without having had any prior teaching experience. It was a lot of effort to get them to pay attention for a whole hour! I observed that a lot of preschool children really enjoy exploring and learning through science activities. However, most pre-school teachers have no training in teaching science so they struggle to design age-appropriate and easy-to-understand content for early-age kids.
Upon discovering this niche in the market, I felt more confident about developing my own venture. I spoke to others about the idea with the aim of forming a team. I rekindled a friendship with a fellow Cantab who read Natural Sciences and is equally passionate about science. I shared my vision with him and we clicked immediately. We decided to name our business the Big Bang Academy, signifying the start of everything.
What have we achieved? What’s the future plan?
Big Bang Academy’s mission is to redefine early age science education. We believe science is for everyone and no one should feel excluded. We promote 21st century skills like problem-solving, critical thinking and creative thinking through fun, hands-on science classes. Our students participate in immersive learning where they actually dress, act and think like a scientist. When our children define themselves as inventors, scientists and engineers, they embrace a growth mindset and a positive attitude towards failure.
We have developed a comprehensive curriculum for children between three and ten years old covering the six key pillars of science: physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, astronomy/earth science and environmental science. In every class, students will be learning about different scientific phenomena that relate to their daily lives, such as how plants produce food, how planes fly or how to build a tall tower. All of our classes are hands-on, so students complete at least one experiment or build a mini-project to bring home.
Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the joy in children when they find interest in what they are learning. It is encouraging to have parents tell us that their five-year-old daughter or son now aspires to become a scientist or an engineer after attending our classes. Such feedback really makes our day.
We dream big and we aspire to become the top early-age science academy in Asia. In under a year, we have accumulated 400+ students and our workshops can be found in several locations throughout Hong Kong. We are also planning our flagship summer camp with a detective theme, including well-known science engagement educators (some of whom are Cantabs) to host the activities.
Our business has definitely been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, but it has also motivated us to innovate and quickly react to provide new solutions. In addition to face-to-face classes, we now offer live-streamed hands-on science lessons online. We are also working with one of the biggest online parenting platforms in Hong Kong to produce fun, educational fun science videos for children to learn at home.
The entrepreneurial journey has been much more challenging than I’d expected. The focus of entrepreneurship is often seen as starting a profitable business; however, we are glad that our venture also creates value for others by stimulating the growth of young minds in the pursuit of science and technology.
By Miss Sarah Tong (2011)