Caribbean Youths Gear up for Pioneering Science and Sustainability Competition

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News writer and book review editor Dr. Jeremy N. A. Matthews (Physics Today, American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland) writes about the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge, a competition sponsored by the financial services corporation, Sagicor, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and the nonprofit Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF). Originally from Guyana and having grown up in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Dr. Matthews is enthusiastic about the promising future of this sustainability competition for Caribbean communities. He explains that the competition is open to students in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago, but may be extended to other Caribbean countries in the coming years. See excerpts (full article in link below):

The Sagicor Visionaries Challenge is a secondary school and/or community-targeting science competition aimed at boosting the region’s food, health, energy, and water security. It is doing so by recruiting the region’s sharpest youth, and their adult mentors and supervisors, to wield the tools of science and technology for the good of their schools and/or communities [. . .]. An outgrowth of a proposed initiative to build Sustainable Caribbean Communities, and at the same time, address STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in the region, the Challenge operates to achieve the following goals: Boost institutional STEM capacity in secondary schools; Ignite interest among the region’s youth for innovation in STEM to address sustainability issues in their communities; and to apply knowledge gained from formal and informal education to building a more sustainable Caribbean.

[. . .] To participate, eligible secondary school students in eligible countries should first consult with school and community members about the local sustainability needs. Then they should conceive of a “mind-blowing” project, for example, designing a campaign to reduce the use of disposable water bottles, and with the help of a supervising school representative, submit the project to the Challenge website. Contestants may form a team of his or her peers for support. The Challenge will also pair students with a mentor—an expert in science, technology, education, or business—who will guide them in the design and implementation of their projects.

[. . .] Winners and runners-up from each National Competition will receive computerized mobile science and technology equipment, CXC-approved science kits, among other things. [. . .] Twelve teachers and twelve students from twelve different Caribbean countries will be going to Florida and when they return they will be encouraged to share their experiences with their peers. In addition to those rewards, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners of the Regional Competition will receive cash prizes of US$5000, $3000, and $1000, respectively.

The region is abuzz preparing for this competition, says University of South Florida Environmental Engineering professor Maya Trotz. A native of Guyana, and a visiting CSF scientist, Dr. Trotz visited many of the participating countries in 2012 and held workshops that drew more than 500 secondary school educators and thousands of students. [. . .] To date, 85 different teams have requested mentors for their projects and many more are likely working independently on theirs. [. . .]

In the meantime, promotion of the Challenge, and recruitment of mentors, is underway, led by Dr. Trotz, her peers on the Sagicor Challenge Team, Dr. Jeanese Badenock, a Chemistry professor at the University of the West Indies in Cave Hill Barbados, and Dr. Sheena Francis, a Biology lecturer at the University of Technology in Jamaica, and with assistance from Barbados native, Dr. Cardinal Warde, an MIT Electrical Engineering professor and interim CSF director. Mentors from around the world have agreed to mentor the student teams. Dr. Suresh Narine, Director of the Institute of Applied Science & Technology is mentoring a team from Annandale Secondary. Dr. Ken Thomas, a Trinbagonian lecturer of environmental engineering at Auburn University in Alabama, has integrated the student projects into his undergraduate courses where his students act as researchers for the secondary school projects. He is currently doing this for Queen’s College and last semester did it for Ocean Academy in Caye Caulker, Belize. Dr. Vincent Adams, a Lindener who manages one of the largest US Department of Energy sites is matched with a team from Diamond Secondary. Guy Mothusi, a manager with PEER Consultants which received the highest award for an engineering project from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers is bringing his expertise from South Africa in sustainable community development to Diamond Secondary. Dr. Kofi Dalrymple, a UG graduate who currently does research at an exciting firm in Florida called Algenol was the first mentor matched for the entire visionaries project. He advised Miss Samantha Henry and her team from Anna Regina Multilateral and they have already submitted their application which really is a 250 word project description. He is also advising a team from St. Roses whose project focuses on a challenge in Greenfield.

If any professional, inside the region or abroad, would like to be a mentor, they should immediately go to the Challenge website at http://sagicorvisionaries.org/site/ or email info@sagicorvisionaries.org.

For more information on the Challenge, and to become engaged, everyone is invited to visit the website, and also to become a fan of the “Sagicor Visionaries” Facebook Page.

For full article, see http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/features/in-the-diaspora/02/11/caribbean-youths-gear-up-for-pioneering-science-and-sustainability-competition/

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