From the Foresighting Workshop on Monday to the presentation of Forum Olympics medals on Sunday, the 2010 Caribbean Youth Science Forum delivered all the information and interest, camaraderie and competition that make for the best vacation experience of Sixth Form Caribbean science students.
Ian Ivey stimulated the mix of minds, with bartering and deal-making among students who got a taste of 'real world' discussions in a serious Foresighting exercise for most of the first day of the Forum sessions. This was followed by the 'oohs and ahhs' of hands-on science experiences at the National Science Centre. A bit of socializing was fitted in to cap off the day, with an entertaining karaoke night on hall at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus.
Tuesday was an early-rising day, with participants being shuttled to various field trip venues across the country. One team of students was able to witness an autopsy at the Forensic Science Centre, while another investigated a staged crime-scene at the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago. Another group got into the cockpit of a commercial plane at Caribbean Airlines, while others learnt about coastal patrols and navigation at sea from the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.
Teams of students also gained first hand-views of science in action at PCS Nitrogen, the Mt. Hope Veterinary School, the UWI Field Station, the Yacht Service Association of Trinidad and Tobago, the Central Experiment Station, the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, Sugar Cane Feeds Centre, Point-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, Industrial Plant Services Limited and Seismic Research Centre.
A fiercely fought debate competition also kick-started on Tuesday, and saw some twenty-two sessions of proposing and opposing arguments on four topics. The topics for debate were well-researched by participants and provided much information to the audiences on: GPS tracking technology, human genetic screening, energy and water concerns, and the value of free tertiary education to attainment of developed country status.
Then there was a lecture series, in which students gained insight into some possible career fields in science. Lecturers presented some of their current research work and also outlined the academic pathways to these fields.
Over the course of the next four days, the young people learnt about the fields of physics and astrophysics from Dr. Shirin Haque; plant biotechnology and genetics from Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan; signal processing and electronic engineering from Professor Anil Kokaram; patents and intellectual property protection from Mr. Lallo Ramlal; forensic science from Dr. Valery Alexandrov; and biomedical engineering from Dr. Rene Williamson . "Socialising with Scientists", a formal dinner on Wednesday evening at the Graduation Pavillion, University of Trinidad and Tobago, furthered this process, with students spending 15-minute rotations with individual scientists to learn more about their careers. A wider grouping of disciplines was on show, with engineers, researchers, ecologists, veterinarians and chemists being on hand for this session. Students also seized valuable group 'photo-ops' with scientists while engaging in these discussions.
Thursday's second round of field trip sessions and heated debates were followed by a 'brain-cooler' evening of telescope viewings on campus facilitated by a team from the National Science Centre and a cinema trip to Caribbean Cinemas 8, Trincity Mall. Friday was the final day for debates, with the staging of the Grand Final. Here the top eight teams - four opposition, four proposition - were on show to the plenary audience, who enjoyed their performances.
The eight debate finalists this year were: Bishop Anstey / Trinity College East, Grenada, Holy Faith Convent - Penal, Jamaica, Signal Hill Secondary School - Tobago, Sixth Form Government School, St. Joseph's Convent - San Fernando, and St. Joseph's Convent - St. Joseph.
After the debate showcase, students went back to their dorms to get ready for the traditional Friday night party, at which everyone got down to some serious fun on the dance floor. After the late night party, Saturday morning dawned with CYSF participants continuing their social itinerary, with some students opting for a shopping trip while others did some sightseeing at the Temple in the Sea at Waterloo, Chaguaramas, Mt. St. Benedict and historic Port of Spain.
Then it was on to "Caribbean Night", a concert event staged by participants and Forum hosts and chaperones. A variety of skits, songs, dances, monologues, poetry and instrumental performances left no doubt in the minds of audience members that these budding scientists are quite talented in the arts...scientists can perform too!
At the concert, all debate finalists were presented with awards and the overall winner of the 2010 debate competition was announced: Signal High Secondary School, Tobago. The team and their supporters erupted with shouts of joy at the announcement. This school had been knocking on the championship door for several years and had finally succeeded in lifting the debate champion trophy that was presented by Mrs. Manchouck. Well deserved, Signal Hill!
The last day was full of mixed emotions: fierce competitions in the staging of the Forum Olympics, even as final farewells were exchanged with the participants from Barbados, who had to catch an early return flight home. The heavens opened and emptied raindrops all over the playground, to turn the final celebrations into a semblance of a J'ouvert morning mud mas, which seemed only to excite the participants more!
Slip-and-slide maxi-taxi races, relays and tug-of-war events made competitors question whether nature and science were for or against them, with gravity, friction, traction, water and mud contributing more than was expected at the sports event! At the end of it all, everyone came out a winner, enjoying the excitement, friendships and friendly competition, and Team Mango and Team Banana sharing top honours in the games.As participants made their way home, bare legs awash in mud and faces glistening with sweat and glowing with excitement, NIHERST organizers started putting their heads together immediately to plan for CYSF 2011. With the tenth anniversary of the event looming ahead of them, the team could only wonder...how do you top something that is already tops? Wait till 2011, and the next batch of Sixth Form students will have the answer to that question! Looking ahead then, here's to CYSF 2011 - a 10th anniversary celebration!