A student of Philippine Science High School (PSHS)–Central Luzon presents his Rubik’s cube solver to [rightmost] Smart chief wireless advisor and Digitel president and CEO Orlando Vea, [from L-R] DOST Usec. Fortunato dela Peña, Rizal Gov. Casimiro Ynares III, and PSHS System executive director Josette Biyo, during the 1s Philippine International Science Fair.
For the longest time, science lovers have been relentlessly teased by peers who do not share their interest in the field. But the tide is changing, according to a telecommunications official who said that now is a great time to be a geek.
Orlando Vea, president and chief executive officer of Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. and founder and chief wireless advisor of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), told a group of young scientists that many of the world’s new heroes come from the ranks of nerds.
“People like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have improved the lives of millions of people. Science and technology have become a major driving force of our lives,” Vea told high school students who participated in the 1st Philippine International Science Fair (PISF) held recently in Antipolo, Rizal.
Shortage of scientists
The telco exec encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology, saying the Philippines is suffering from a shortage of scientists. “I came across a study that shows how many scientists there are per million people in each of these Asian countries. At the top of the list is Japan which has 5,084 scientists per million people. Vietnam has 516, Thailand has 493. We are at the bottom with 157. The serious shortage of scientists is a huge problem for the country. But it is also a great opportunity for young people like you,” Vea said.
“You see, our country’s future progress will be greatly dependent on the application of science and technology to our industries, agriculture, energy and water, our hospitals and of course, our schools,” he added.
Hundreds of students from science-oriented schools all over the Philippines and from neighboring countries (Bangladesh, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam) participated in the PISF which was organized by the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) system, in partnership with the First Pacific Leadership Academy.
Smart, Sun Cellular, PLDT, and other First Pacific companies sponsored the event which allowed students to learn from the experts and to share their projects and research experiences with each other. Among the projects featured in the fair are a robot that can solve a Rubik’s cube, robots playing football, a flood detection and warning device, and a report on the use of oyster mushrooms as a nontoxic ingredient of cancer radiation treatments.
Companies urged to invest in the youth
Department of Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said more companies should support initiatives like the PISF. “Companies should consider this a good investment because these young people could work for them in the future,” he said.
“Our ultimate target here is to make science fun for all students – not just the top students – and to make science education oriented toward nation-building,” Luistro added.
“The support of these companies is very much appreciated,” said Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary Fortunato dela Peña. “It is important to advocate a scientific culture. The initiative shouldn’t come from just the government.”
Earl Martin Valencia, president of the incubator program IdeaSpace Foundation and head of corporate development and innovation at Smart, stressed the importance of linkages among the government, private sector, and the academe. “Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s all about execution. Linkages among these different sectors can turn students’ bright ideas into real projects that can contribute to the development of the country,” he said.
Valencia was the science fair’s technology entrepreneurship mentor. A Stanford business school graduate and alumni of Boston University and Cornell University, Valencia worked in Silicon Valley before coming back to the Philippines to head IdeaSpace.
“Companies’ contributions are significant,” said Josette Biyo, executive director of the PSHS System. “I am glad that we share the belief that developing the youth of today will improve our socioeconomic condition.” A science educator, Biyo was the first Asian to win the Intel Excellence in Teaching Award at the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Kentucky, USA.
From co-researchers to cofounders
Valencia told the young scientists that the next world-changing idea could come from them. “Big technology companies like Apple, HP, and Smart all started with a big idea and two people. One day it could be you. Your research partners now can be your cofounders in the future.”
“The guys who founded HP started in a garage. Smart was founded by Doy Vea and Dave Fernando – two friends from the University of the Philippines. You are in very good science schools, so why can’t it be you?”
Malaysian delegate Farah Adibah Binti Zaihan said she found the speakers’ talks inspiring. “I learned a lot of interesting things. I now feel inspired to become a good scientist,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jhames Niño Trinidad of PSHS-Central Visayas said he is glad to have had the opportunity to learn from the experts. “Their words of encouragement are very important to me and my classmates, especially because we are graduating students. I feel excited about the future because of them.”