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SPISE the future

More attention must be place on science to help regional economy thrive

The Caribbean needs to create more technology-based companies and more high-paying technology jobs that bring in foreign exchange so we do not fall further behind in the global economic race.

Since this huge economic development responsibility is being transferred to the next generation, it is imperative that the region prepare its youngsters for the challenges ahead.

To help address these problems, the Caribbean Science Foundation has created the annual Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering, one of the CSF initiatives with the long-term objectives of helping to address the low numbers of Caribbean students pursuing advanced degrees in science and engineering.

It was also designed to “harness science and technology to diversify the economies of the region by stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship and thereby creating more jobs”. Key partners in the SPISE are the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean Examinations Council.

SPISE is an intensive four-week enrichment residential summer programme for Caribbean high-school students who are: (a) gifted in science technology, engineering and math (STEM), (b) not less than 16 and not more than 18 years of age on July 1, and (c) interested in studying and exploring careers in these and related fields.

It is anticipated that students who complete the SPISE will attend some of the best science and engineering universities in the world, and become scientific, engineering and business leaders in academia and industry within the Caribbean. The CSF believes that the “next Google” could be created in the Caribbean by any of our STEM superstars.

SPISE is modelled after the well-known and highly successful MITES programme of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and includes university-level courses in calculus, physics, biochemistry and entrepreneurship taught by eminent academic and industry scientists and engineers from the Caribbean and the US.

The SPISE environment discourages rote learning, and teaches the students how to focus on understanding and applying the fundamentals so as to achieve mastery of the material and the ability to solve new, complex problems. In SPISE, students also practice teamwork as they participate in projects to design, build and test systems in the areas of robotics and electronics.

A highlight of SPISE 2013 will be the opportunity for students to assemble and operate remotely guided underwater robots, a generous gift from MIT made possible through the assistance of Tim Downes of the MIT Sea Grant Programme.

In addition, SPISE 2013 will include a brief introduction to Mandarin, a humanities course covering the “one-Caribbean” concept, and a career seminar series that exposes the students to role models from the Diaspora and the region.

Students will demonstrate their hands-on projects at the conclusion of the programme in a public forum on August 16 at 1 p.m. at the 3Ws Oval. This year’s SPISE runs from July 20 to August 17 at Cave Hill campus.

Fifteen students from 10 countries (Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago) have been selected to participate. All students participate free of charge owing to generous donations from the 2013 sponsors.

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