Late on Monday in the middle of Ramadhan, the Galleria of Petrosains, located on the fourth floor of Suria KLCC was filled with chatter and boisterous laughter of over 80 children from orphanages centres Pusat Jagaan Siraman Kasih and Pertubuhan Kebajikan Pendidikan Permata Rohani.
These children were being treated to a ‘buka puasa’ (breaking of fast) feast in celebration of Petrosains’ 20th anniversary.
“It’s a full day of fun activities for them! Earlier, we brought them to the Skybridge and Observation Deck of the Twin Towers and now they are exploring Petrosains. I hope they will bring back good memories, and be inspired to work hard for the future,” says Fedora Zulkifli, Chief Executive Officer of Petrosains.
This is an annual event for Petrosains, but it’s the first time for Fedora, who just took the helm in October 2018. She says: “I am lucky that I am starting off with a good foundation of the organisation.”
“Looking from the facade of Petrosains, you might assume there has not been much change, but we are working very hard to improve our science centre."
Having almost 12 years of working experience in the Petronas Group and seven years with Motorola Solutions, Fedora has risen through the ranks, holding multiple senior roles such as Head of Branding and Communications, Head of Organisational Improvement.
“I started in the technical and engineering and eventually look into corporate; business planning, risk management and the elements of branding and communication.
“My experience overlooking the ‘Organisational Improvement’ is definitely helping me now in shaping the journey of Petrosains moving forward. It’s always about looking into untapped potentials and I always ask my team: ‘How do we do better? What are the opportunities that we should look into?’
“Coming from an engineering background, I am a very structured person. I believe in collective inputs and brainstorming to make decisions. Typically in any leadership position, you will have blind spots. So I welcome feedback - that’s the culture I’m bringing in the organisation,” she says.
Today, Petrosains is going through major upgrades; from its technology implementation in exhibitions, providing virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.
“Looking from the facade of Petrosains, you might assume there has not been much change, but we are working very hard to improve our science centre.
“One example is the Dino Trek Dinosaur exhibition which has been traveling all over Malaysia for the past year and now, it’s permanently back here. We have implemented animatronics, a Japanese technology which is technique making and operating lifelike robots.
“We have also updated our mini science shows in our facility to become more current, and we have introduced ‘after-hours’ programs (offered after 6pm) to attract young adults and working adults,” says Fedora.
Fedora believes Petrosains must play a big role to ignite a passion for discovery among the people, at the same time create programs that may future-proof the young generation for the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0).
“Our existence is beyond just showcasing scientific experiments. We have a lot of outreach programs in line with IR 4.0 such as automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) workshops- at the same time, it must be aligned with the school curriculum. The world will continue to evolve, and we must keep up.
“Besides that, we also have science drama competitions. We work with language teachers, using the art of story-telling, we make science and math very interesting and relatable. We want to inspire students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning,” she says.
Since Petrosains' establishment in 1999, seven million visitors walked through its doors. A staple tourist attraction in Kuala Lumpur, Petrosains has also expanded its presence in the country through its satellite centres.
“We have four other Petrosains Playsmart Satellite Centres located Johor Bahru, Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu. We are soon opening another in Kuching.
“It is a 5,000 square feet, a mini science centre, located in the public libraries of these towns. For us, it’s an opportunity to localise and reach out to a larger group of people,” she says.
According to Fedora, Petrosains is a member in some of the global networks such as the Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC) and The European Network of Science Centres and Museum (Ecsite) and Association of Science-Technology Centres Incorporated.
“If you are a member of Petrosains, you actually have unlimited access not only to our science centre but also other science centres which are a part of this network. We want to be a world-class science centre.
“We want to be a benchmark for other countries. Just like what we did for SAHABAT- an indigenous outreach program where we conduct educational camp with 100 selected Orang Asli children. This program was highly appraised by Questacon - National Science and Technology Centre from Australia. They are looking into adopting the same program for the aborigines.
“We want to be a benchmark for other countries."
“So now, this is what I want to do - for our programs to be more concerted and structured. I want to leverage our partnerships and collaborate with all stakeholders in Malaysia and globally. This way, I believe Petrosains will continue to elevate” she says.
As we end the interview, Fedora showed us framed pictures of her two children, aged three and four, on a bookshelf in her office.
“They are my case study! I always bring them here. I hope what I do here in Petrosains is able to spark curiosity in my children- it’s for their future.
“My first several months here in Petrosains has been nothing but exciting. I keep saying to everyone: ‘It’s a wonderful world here! For me, managing a science centre is truly enriching because it’s all about education, giving back, social innovation and nation-building,” she says with much enthusiasm.