In Search Of Innovative Science Projects

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When SciTechXpo 2016 is held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre from March 10 to 12, much creativity and ingenuity will be expected from those whose work is featured.

The exhibition is being staged by the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST), and it is anticipated that individuals, organisations and students, with some input from teachers, will come up with groundbreaking ideas and innovative, state-of-the-art projects.

This is according to the NCST???s Senior Technical Officer, Arlene Weekes, who wants public and private institutions to accept the challenge and think creatively as they develop products or projects that are sustainable.

???The NCST, which is a department under the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, wants to see exhibits that make use of science and technology (S&T) to address several issues. We want students to create solutions that are workable in Barbados, and as such, we are encouraging primary and secondary students to craft creative interactive displays and /or compile investigative reports to present their solutions and/ interventions,??? Ms. Weekes said.

Among the areas which the NCST official wants attention drawn to, are land degradation; water scarcity; food scarcity/security; climate change; post-harvest production; renewable energy; sargassum seaweed invasion and ground transportation.

Students exploring the issue of Land Degradation may choose to focus on improper agricultural practices, deforestation, overgrazing by ruminants or general misuse of the land, all of which have been said to lead to soil erosion and land degradation. This has led to the accumulation of silt on many near shore regions.

The Senior Technical Officer said that powerful answers to issues plaguing the Scotland District were also awaited. This region, she said, is touted as the bread basket for Barbados yet its fertile soils are standing idle as a result of poor access, unstableness of the land which is prone to slippage and difficult soil types.

With respect to Water Scarcity, and given that Barbados, according to the World Health Organization, has been listed as the 10th most water scarce nation in the world, the NCST would like to see exhibits detailing what can be done to combat or at least alleviate some of the related problems.

For those tackling the issue of Climate Change, the NCST is keen on projects that depict how S&T will help Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Barbados which stand to be impacted significantly by negative effects of climate change. ???Vast swathes of infrastructure along the coastline and fragile ecosystems, such as our coral reefs, will be impacted,??? Ms. Weekes cautioned.

Exhibits centred on Food Scarcity/Security should consider whether Barbados??? food import bill, currently into millions of dollars annually, can be sustained or reduced. In essence, individuals, students and organisations will be urged to highlight what can be done.??

Still in the realm of agriculture, the NCST is interested in receiving projects that address Post-harvest Production. Given that it becomes difficult and almost impossible to find local golden apples, mangoes and other fruits and vegetables, when not in season, individuals and institutions need to creatively determine if there is a way to access produce which is ???out of season???.

Maybe students and civil society have already envisaged the next big innovation in Renewable Energy. ???With Barbados considering the use of bagasse in the production of fuel, having introduced electric cars and miles ahead in solar energy, it is expected that institutions will bring even brighter ideas to the fore,??? the Senior Technical Officer said.

Moreover, with the reserves of fossil fuels likely to be exhausted one day, it is hoped that Barbadians can arrive at the answer to: ???How can we in Barbados power our way using only renewable sources of energy???? But even more highly-awaited are projects designed around the Sargassum Seaweed Invasion that has over the past few years seen our shores inundated by thousands of tons of this seaweed.

???Our once pristine beaches are under siege. Beach cleanups are the norm but more of the pesky seaweed is usually back by the next day. Carting the seaweed to the landfill for disposal may not be considered a good thing by some, and to this end, the NCST would like to hear from the public, through their exhibits: ???How can we use S&T to fix this environmental issue??????? she explained.

Finally, Ground Transportation, a bugbear for many on the island, is expected to bring out the ingenuity of our students and others, says the NCST. Despite the fact that the Transport Authority has come up with an initiative, the Service Integration pilot project, to improve the transportation system, more may be necessary.

???Barbados is a mere 166 square miles, yet we often hear stories of the horrors commuters face when trying to get from one destination to another. We have a state run public transport system, as well as transportation run by private entities, yet it seems as though this is not enough since the complaints just keep coming. The NCST wouldn???t mind hearing and seeing solution(s) which science and technology offers to the transportation system,??? Ms. Weekes encouraged.

Project proposals may be brought to the attention of the National Council for Science and Technology, Reef Road, Fontabelle, St. Michael, by calling 427-5270 Extension 5274; by fax at 228-5765; or by emailing scitech.ncst@barbados.gov.bb.??The deadline for the submission of projects is Friday, January 8, 2016.

SciTechXpo 2016 is one of the flagship projects of the NCST, whose responsibilities include, among others, identifying S&T projects of national importance and coordinating research and development in S&T. The theme for the upcoming exposition is: Celebrating Science and Technology??? Creating Quality Solutions for Sustainable Living.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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