Being handpicked to represent the country is a rare privilege only the best and the brightest enjoy. Each year, young achievers in the field of science and engineering are given the opportunity to share the fruits of their research with a global audience. Given the unparalleled prestige of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), the premier international science competition for students in grades 9 – 12, those who make the cut are undoubtedly worth their salt.
Driven by a shared vision to create awareness of prevalent social, ecological and economic issues, eight of the Philippines’ best students were chosen to represent the country at the 2012 Intel ISEF. The students will compete in two team categories and two individual categories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 13-18.
According to Yvonne Flores, government affairs manager at Intel Philippines, the delegates are bringing a lot to the table this year. “The students’ projects had already won them critical acclaim in the country’s division, regional and national science fairs. We are quite privileged to have these talented youth represent the country,” said Flores. “In last year’s ISEF, one of our own, Miguel Reyes, actually won the second grand award. He was also awarded the privilege to have an asteroid named after him, with whom only eight Filipinos were granted historically. We are hoping that this year’s delegates will follow suit.”
ISEF 2012 delegate Elson Ian Nyl Galang is among those who are motivated by the achievements of the country’s past ISEF representatives. “I want to be able to inspire young Filipino achievers to take their own studies one step further,” said Galang. “Our efforts at this year’s ISEF will hopefully continue the tradition of setting the bar high for academic excellence and attaining global recognition of Filipino talent.”
Armed with ambition and an eagerness to deliver, seventeen year-old Elson Ian Nyl Galang is passionate about making his mark on the Philippine fabric and garment industry. With his award-winning research and development of an eco-friendly and economically competitive fabric made of Fragrant Screw Pine or pandan fibers, Galang hopes to soon realize his vision of establishing pandan fiber as a viable alternative to synthetic polyester as a blend for cotton.
The scoop on soil conservation
Developing a comprehensive study, whatever the theme or subject, may be a feat in itself for the average Juan, but for those in pursuit of the elusive Eureka! moment, the opportunity to champion their research in the global arena is worth the extra hours in the library.
The youngest of this year’s delegates, fifteen-year-old Ven Gabriel Tan proves that youth is not a restriction to the bounds of what one can achieve. With his study on the potential of herbal plants in containing copper ions in mined-out and heavy metal amended soil, he hopes to awaken consciousness and support for both local and global resource conservation and pollution prevention efforts.
“One of the goals I set for myself and for this project is to create awareness on the dangers of mining waste and contaminated soil. Through this study, I am looking to provide members of mining communities with a remedy to this issue,” said Tan. “Hopefully, I would be able to communicate this message to our citizens through our stint at ISEF.” Tan is the first student from Marinduque to represent the country at the Intel ISEF and continues to be a source of pride to the region.
Reef restoration for a sea of change
Producing a feasible and sustainable means to balance human needs with economic development and environmental responsibility is a formidable task. To take on the challenge, one would need the brainpower, the manpower and sheer determination. Whiz kids Hazel Anne Hernandez, Julian Paolo Biyo and Paul Caesar Flores tackled the task head-on and emerged victorious with a project on coral assemblage establishment and artificial reef enhancement through coral transplantation.
Under the leadership of Hernandez, the team, who had won the “Most Promising Young Scientists Award” in the recently concluded Search for SEAMEO’s (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization) Young Scientist 8th Regional Congress in Penang, Malaysia, worked to provide an acceptable method for coral reef rehabilitation using bamboo and concrete materials to a local fishing community in the Banate Bay, Iloilo. The students’ research area is now recognized as a protected habitat.
“The findings and techniques we utilized for this research are appropriate to areas where coral reefs need treatment. In essence, the benefits generated by this project apply both locally and globally,” said Biyo. “Through our project, not only do we want to benefit the environment through coral rehabilitation, but we also strive to provide economic support to communities who rely on coral reefs for livelihood.”
Julian Paolo Biyo is the son of the esteemed scientist Dr. Josette Biyo, who had won the Intel Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002. She is currently the Executive Director of the Philippine Science High Schools System.
Linking Ink with a Cure
According to Arne Duncan, a great teacher can literally change the course of a student’s life by lighting in them a lifelong curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. True to form, sixteen-year-olds Bryce Años, Lanz Gabriel Jabla and Carla Lazara found light and inspiration in research adviser Sharon Dejarme, who had piloted the team towards winning four science fair championships in 2011 alone with their unique study on the potential of sea hare ink to hinder mitosis or cell division. Sea hares are medium to large-sized sea slugs that secrete ink as a potent deterrent to predators.
Through a series of tests, the team discovered that certain compounds present in the ink could potentially set off rapid cell division and consequently help treat certain diseases involving atrophy, the deterioration of a body part or tissue. According to Team Leader Lazara, it is both a taste for discovery and a fervor for innovation that inspired the team to take on their research.
“Believe it or not, everything in the world – no matter what the appearance –has something wonderful to offer. Nothing is ever completely useless,” said Lazara. “Sea hares may not the prettiest or most powerful of animals, but through our research, we found their potential to make a significant contribution to science and medicine.” The team ultimately dreams of isolating the compounds in the ink and producing a drug which can treat degenerative diseases.
Inspiring the Innovators of Tomorrow
The students of today are the innovators of tomorrow. Recognizing this, Intel is committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs by sponsoring local and international competitions and acknowledging schools that demonstrate leadership in innovative Math and Science programs.
With the Intel ISEF right around the corner, Intel is working with the Department of Education (DepEd) to guide and equip the students for the competition. The partnership reaffirms the organizations’ commitment to encouraging young Filipinos with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and online resources.
“We have a Special Science Program for selected elementary schools to identify and nurture talent in science, technology and engineering. The selected schools serve as feeders to special science high schools where students begin to view science and technology as viable career options,” said Dir. Lolita M. Andrada, Fair Director, Philippines Science Fair, Director, Bureau of Secondary Education. “The idea is to start them young and fan their interest in scientific research and development. When we are able to tap their innate curiosity, we are able to further develop their natural sense of wonderment. In this way, we develop a core pool of science and technology professionals.”
The Filipino delegation will attend the second of two Science Clinics on May 7 to 11, wherein the students will rely on both experts and technology to help them prepare for the coming competition.
“These days, knowledge is everywhere precisely because we are in the information age. With the abundance of sources and resources, the only thing that stands between us and our dreams are ourselves,” said Lazara.
The Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. It provides an annual forum for more than 1,500 high school students from 65 countries, regions, and territories to present their independent research as they compete for over $4 million annually.