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How I Spent My Summer Vacation


Sixth form DeCarteret College student Demar Edwards conducts a biochemistry lab with partner Abigail Scott from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Sixth form DeCarteret College student Demar Edwards conducts a biochemistry lab with partner Abigail Scott from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

From teachers assigning essays on the subject to friends/classmates seeking to outdo each other with impressive tales, ‘What did you do this summer?’ has to be the most frequently asked question at the beginning of the school year.

This year, the responses from six Jamaican teens will likely blow their peers away.

That’s because they spent the last four weeks at the feet of Barbados-born professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dr Cardinal Warde being prepared to be the next generation of science, engineering technology and business leaders in the Caribbean. Through Warde’s intensive four-week residential enrichment programme for gifted Caribbean high schoolers who have their sights set on studying science and engineering, the students got to build underwater robots, design a renewable energy project, develop business ideas, learn Mandarin, and study the importance of Caribbean integration.

The project, now in its fifth year and with 85 graduates, is called Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) and is hosted by Caribbean Science Foundation at the Cave Hill, Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies. Warde is interim executive director of the foundation.

“SPISE is designed to help address the low numbers of Caribbean students pursuing careers in science and engineering. In doing this, the vision is to help diversify our economies by creating new economic pillars based on the production of technology-based products and services and create more and higher paying jobs,” says Warde.

Aside from directly influencing students via residential workshops, professor Warde says the role of the science educator is also critical to bumping up the numbers, and offered the following advice:

“Although the CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) syllabus may be guiding the content of classes, you must adopt and practise inquiry-based methods for the STEM subjects. You must try to get a design component in project-based courses. This will allow the students to express their creativity and will promote innovative thinking, especially in the hands-on classes.”

“By all means, discourage rote learning, cramming and regurgitation. Instead, make sure that the students truly gain mastery of the fundamentals in every discipline. You, yourself, must practise continuing education, as the STEM disciplines are not static, and students today need to master much more material than you did when you were students,” Warde advises teachers.

Below, the students, two of whom were featured last week in a story headlined ‘SPISE up your life’, share their experience.

Kieran Neath

• Upper sixth form, Campion College

• Petna Foundation Scholar

He’s an inventor with 12 patents, so Professor Warde is a great role model. He showed me the ways in which science can really create opportunity and that the Caribbean can build world-class technology, not just be users. SPISE challenged me to think more creatively. The big win for me was the chance to learn Python, a programming language. That was a huge confidence boost, since I’m not doing CAPE level IT. Now I’m keen on studying electrical nngineering or materials engineering. The SPISE experience helped me to see past my sixth form life. One of our teaching assistants was from Dartmouth, for example, and he helped me to understand what it’s going to take to succeed at a top university.

Tyler Neath

• Upper sixth form, Campion College

• CADSTI-NE Scholar

SPISE was a pretty tough experience. If any of us thought we were going to chill for the four weeks, the second day of being in Barbados changed that quickly as we had to do a series of tests. By that first Monday, we went straight into 12-hour days. We were exposed to university-level calculus, physics and biochemistry. We also had classes in Caribbean unity. I never really had a Caribbean perspective before SPISE, but that has now changed, big time. I also never really had a passion for a specific career but I am now focused on biochemical engineering. SPISE was the key that helped me to connect the dots between what I’m learning in CAPE physics, biology, chemistry and math, and what I could be studying at university.

Demar Edwards

• Upper sixth form, Decarteret College

• Peloton International Scholar

Each student chose one of two hands-on projects, either renewable energy or underwater robotics. As teamwork is heavily emphasised, we were placed in groups to work on our projects. The most significant experience for me was building something from scratch; watching my project take form, step by step, as each part came together to form the final product that actually worked. I chose renewable energy and my group members built the blades of a wind turbine. The greatest feeling was seeing our wind turbine actually work, generating electricity from the wind.

Avery Barnett

• Fifth form, Immaculate Conception High School

• Linda Su-Nan Chang Sah Scholar

My motivation to be a part of SPISE was directly related to my interest in a science-related career. I wanted to prove to myself that I would be able to do this. My most significant experience was meeting the fellow “Spisers” who came from different backgrounds and had diverse experiences, and sharing in the workload and struggles whilst becoming a close-knit family within a month. I have become more culturally aware and mature in the way I process and approach questions. I have also developed a greater sense of belonging. This learning experience was fundamental in how I now view the world.

Arianna Stephenson

• Upper sixth form, DeCarteret College

• Caribbean Development Bank Scholar

Four weeks appeared to be more than enough time to get tasks done, but it was never really sufficient. From designing and constructing wind turbine blades, to homework, studying for finals and class quizzes, time had to be allotted for each task, but somehow it was never enough as some of our grades would show. Nevertheless, we put on a fantastic show on the final day, which was the result of many sleepless nights. I have never exerted that much energy in getting tasks done; now I know how much I should have been putting into school activities and what I should put in for significant future endeavours.

Emmanuel Sylvester

• Upper sixth form, Campion College

• Caribbean Development Bank Scholar

I now understand the importance of the underlying principles of the things that I learn in the classroom and how they can be applied to our real-life situations, rather than just being able to regurgitate them for the purpose of passing my exams. I intend to become a mechanical engineer, and attending SPISE exposed me to many new things that I would not be able to experience in Jamaica. The programme also introduced me to some of the fundamental principles in engineering that will form a foundation for further studies when I enter university.



Category/ies:Barbados News, Jamaica News, News, Renewable Energy, Wind energy.
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