From space to earthquake science to developing mobile apps, lower sixth form science students attending the 10th Caribbean Youth Science Forum (CYSF) saw exciting possibilities for their own career paths in a range of scientific and technological fields.
The 200 participants from Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, St Lucia and 35 schools in Trinidad and Tobago, convened at The UWI and UTT campuses for a week of inspiration and engagement, learning and bonding as regional peers.
The 2011 forum included: lectures and mentoring by leading local and international professionals; field trips to see "science in action" in business, industry and academia; and the new Design Challenge Competition, which stretched the students' creativity, critical thinking skills, and ability to work in teams to solve problems.
This year's keynote speaker at the opening ceremony was Trinidad-born aerospace engineer, Camille Wardrop Alleyne, NASA's Assistant Program Scientist for the International Space Station (ISS), based at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, USA. Ms Alleyne ignited the students' interest and imagination with her own remarkable life story, and a riveting presentation on the research being done on the ISS.
She also arranged for the historic live hook up to the ISS during the forum, which enabled 12 students to be the first people in the region to direct questions to an astronaut on board. Assisted by the Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio League (TTARL) through NASA's ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) programme, students asked questions related to space exploration, the activities of the ISS, and the astronaut's personal experience of being in space.
But the forum wasn't just all work. The evenings were for relaxing and socialising, enjoying karaoke or catching a movie. At Caribbean Night, the students themselves provided the entertainment, showing off their talents in the performing arts. And on the Sunday morning, before heading home, they divided up into five teams for friendly competition at the Forum Olympics.
As with every forum, the participants at this special 10th anniversary CYSF arrived in small cliques from their schools and left as one group - united by their forum experience and the forging of new friendships across the region.
The development of Caribbean countries depends more than ever now on the strengthening of our capability in science, technology and innovation (STI). The current generation of students will form the critical human resource base of scientists and engineers needed to advance our economies and ensure competiveness in the future. CYSF serves as a platform to nurture these future scientists, not just providing knowledge but also encouraging them to reflect on global issues and to collaborate for the good of the regional community.