Can Turkey produce enough STEM students to become a global player in technology?

The Teknofest in Istanbul last week featured displays of fighter jets and attack helicopters, but what was hidden behind them may be Turkey’s best hope for achieving its high-tech goals.

The contests, held in rows of air-conditioned tents across the country, showcased inventions created in science labs and on home computers by teams primarily made up of secondary school and university students.

Despite the fact that many people came to see the Turkish Stars aerial display team fly over Ataturk Airport, the country’s next generation of innovators will determine whether or not Turkey remains competitive in the global marketplace.

Selcuk Bayraktar, the man behind Turkey’s domestic drone industry, is awarding the winning team, demonstrating how Turkey values encouraging tomorrow’s innovators.

During the six-day tournament, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) guru, dressed in a scarlet bomber jacket, was beaming with pride and goodwill as he handed out trophies and congratulated and encouraged his young admirers.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nose cone signature on the Akinci PT-2, Bayraktar’s newest and most advanced horse, sat outside with his father-in-law.

The most visible outward sign of a country racing to improve STEM education is the use of Turkish armed drones, which have proven their worth in the skies over Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

This year’s Teknofest featured 200 teams competing in intelligent transportation, biotechnology, educational technology, robotics, flying vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, underwater systems, and agricultural technologies.

Gultekin Cakmakci, an education professor at Hacettepe University’s STEM and Maker Lab in Ankara, says, “Teknofest began a few years ago to engage the public in science and technology, and it is a good movement.”

Developing Today’s Future Leaders

STEM education’s goal is to produce a steady stream of young scientists, designers, and engineers to feed the talent and innovation pipelines required for a country’s global competitiveness to remain competitive in the global market.

According to the Turkish population demographic, which is 38% under the age of 25, this country has a lot of potential. Taking care of it is only half the battle; the other half is letting it go.

Intelligence is being depleted

Another issue that policymakers are concerned about is brain drain. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, more than 330,000 Turks left the country in 2019, with 41% of them being between the ages of 20 and 34.

Aziz Sancar, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, and husband-and-wife team Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, creators of the BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, have established international reputations.

“There are many reasons for brain drain, including economic, opportunity, and funding reasons,” says a leading scientist familiar with the situation.


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