Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Reception for Cambodia Science and Engineering Festival

Chief of Mission Residence, Phnom Penh
February 27, 2018

Welcome H.E. Im Koch, Secretary of State at MOEYS, and other colleagues from the RGC;
Amb Bill Longhurst and other colleagues from diplomatic community;
representatives of the private sector, universities and other educational institutions, civil society, tech community;
and of course Visal Phork (admin director of CSEF) and our volunteers from STEM Cambodia.
Special welcome to the person who traveled the farthest for the CSEF, Sotie and my old friend, Kith Sokkom. Sokkom, raise your hand!
Sokkom is not only an electronics engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Lab, which is a pretty impressive STEM title.

He also holds several U.S. patents, is a STEM education leader, and mentors youth robotics teams in the state of Virginia.

Haey nung goat dzia gon Khmae. Galt nul strok Khmae nung niaey piasa khmae lahoh czhbah nah. Even knows the word for “artificial intelligence” in Khmer—brahtnya sehpannihmet. Delighted he’s here.

Thank everyone for coming to this gala launch party for the 4th CSEF. My favorite event of the year. We are going to have some fun, and music, and experiments tonight!

I know everyone here tonight cares about STEM education. That’s why you are here. Reasons are simple.
We all know that STEM education is a key foundation for any country’s economic success, including for both the U.S. and Cambodia.

As the Kingdom’s economy diversifies, employers demand more skilled workers. I’ve seen this myself talking to American companies.

Cambodian government working hard on this challenge. Events like the CSEF directly support that work.
STEM skills highly sought after both in the U.S. and Cambodia. Quarter of US STEM workforce is foreign born—42 percent in California. STEM worker command higher wages than their non-STEM peers.

We also know that STEM education is an important driver of innovation and adoption of new technologies. Think about South African born Elon Musk, Tesla, and Space-X.

The challenge is that more jobs are needed for graduates to make STEM subjects an attractive choice for young people. That’s why it’s so important to involve the private sector in this collaborative effort.

Congratulate STEM Cambodia for organizing the festival and for raising STEM awareness.

Not just science but blended with Khmer pop culture. Science is fun and cool. Better at this than we are in America!

Visal and team are good example of Cambodia’s dynamic youth – taking initiative and making a difference.

Before I give up the microphone, plug for Robotics competition – 30 teams of Cambodia’s smartest high school students are creating robots that can move in open water. [ Sokkom will be one of the judges.]
Introduce H.E. Im Koch, Secretary of State MoEYS. He and Minister Hang Chuan Naron are strong supporters of STEM education, and just this year are rolling out a new pilot program will emphasize STEM education at designated schools.