STEM awareness gets boost from Caribbean conference

Participants at the recent CSF Conference in Guyana.

Participants at the recent CSF Conference in Guyana.

(December 19, 2013, Georgetown, Guyana): In a packed conference room at the Grand Coastal Hotel, enthusiastic professionals from the Caribbean joined students and teachers from Guyana to discuss careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Under the title, “Stimulating Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Science and Engineering,” the Caribbean Science Foundation (SCF) hosted its third annual conference. Details were provided about promoting STEM careers to help diversify the economies of the Caribbean. The event was held December 2-3.

The Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), in collaboration with the Guyana Ministry of Education and the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation organized the conference. The CSF was established in 2010 as an independent non-profit non-governmental organization whose mission is to assist with the diversification of the Region’s economies by promoting education reform in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship.

Students listen intently during workshop at the conference.

Students preparing for micro-science experiments.

Prime Minister of Guyana, the Hon. Samuel Hinds, opened the conference, and both he and Guyana’s  Minister of Education, the Hon. Priya Manickch, highlighted the importance of harnessing science and technology for the development of the region. Collaboration and cooperation across institutions and sectors throughout the region, and networking with the diaspora, were mentioned frequently as key to facilitating science and technology advances. The recent approval of Guyana’s National Science and Technology policy was highlighted by Science and Technology Advisor to the President of Guyana, Mr. Navin Chandarpal. He stressed the policy as a national milestone in elevating awareness of the importance of STEM education reform. Barbados Ambassador Designate to China, and Director General Emeritus of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, focused on the importance of food security, the expanded agricultural sector, and the need for the Region to produce more of the food it consumes.

Many students and teachers from high schools in Guyana participated in the conference, with the students posing some of the most difficult questions to the speakers. The students, under the supervision of Ms. Petal Jetoo of the Ministry of Education of Guyana and her team of Guyanese scientists, also carried out experiments using microscience kits provided by UNESCO. The students commended this hands-on learning experience.

Conference presenter shares information while students gaze in rapt attention.

Professor Winston Mellowes engaging students at the conference, while students gaze in rapt attention.

CSF programs such as the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge and the Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) were featured, with three Guyanese students speaking about their recent experiences in those programs. Also covered were STEM curriculum and modernization updates, with the primary objective of making science fun for the students. Teaching with examples drawn from local resources and needs, inquiry-based science approaches, the scientific method, and the use of digital e-learning were also emphasized. The need for more national science fairs, math Olympiads and science museums was also stressed. The vast range of career options in the STEM disciplines was the subject of a career panel. The requirements for the launch of a high-tech electronics start-up company were demystified with examples showing how, in the Internet era, the materials and components needed could be sourced worldwide from a desktop. The critical need for execution to bring ideas to fruition was emphasized.

The 2013 CSF Distinguished Service Awards went to Prof. Maya Trotz of the Univ. of South Florida, Ms. Petal Jetoo of the Ministry of Education of Guyana, Sagicor Financial Corporation, and Sagicor Life Caribbean. Key sponsors of the Workshop included the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Organization of American States, the Canadian government, UNESCO and Sagicor.

Individuals or organizations interested in supporting CSF projects may donate at http://caribbeanscience.org/donation/ or send inquiries to Professor Cardinal Warde (warde.csf@gmail.com). OnPointPress.net.

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