This article is an honest opinion piece by Selina.
Science competitions are important venues that provide growth for aspiring scientists and young impressionable adolescents who have decided that they get the greatest sense of joy from their science classes above all the others.
By participating in a science competition, not only do they improve on important skills such as research, experimental design and other soft skills such as time management, perseverance, working in a group etc., but also get exposed to something extraordinary. Just as we know that environment is important for cell growth, in that sense, we can apply the same concept to these youths.
When placed in an optimal environment and interests nurtured, these youths will become the forefront of the next generation and become one of the most important generations in science. This is essential at this crossroad where the children born in the ‘smart’ era are soon to enter the field and our pioneers are retiring.
Exposure to science is vital. One of the best ways to expose youths to science is through competitions and other events in which thousands of other like-minded passionate youths come with their ideas and discussion on the various fields of science.
In other countries, science competitions such as the INTEL Science and Engineering Fair and the Google Science Fair (GSF) (both international competitions) have quickly gained recognition in the world of scientific competition. Often the INTEL Science and Engineering Fair is referred to as the ‘Olympics’ of pre-university science competitions. Through these competitions we identify and nurture young scientists who seem to have made up their minds to have an impact on the world. We have brilliant young minds such as Eric Chen, Jack Andraka and more recently Olivia Hallisey (who recently won the GSF’15 with a test for Ebola) and countless others. These young people have benefitted greatly in various ways from their experience of competing at science fairs.
However, are we missing out on this opportunity to expose Singaporean students to the great benefits of science competitions? We have very few science competitions and majority of these competitions (national science challenge, SSEF and A*STAR talent search), sadly, target secondary school students and JC students. There is a largely untapped pool of potential participants in the form of polytechnic students.
Polytechnic students in science have already decided that their interest lies in science and are spending 3 years of their education targeted on a particular specialization, be it material science or biotechnology or others; however the JC curriculum has a broader range and allows students to explore their interests. Although you could say they spend majority of their time in preparation for ‘A’ levels.
Often people would point out that we have a lot of projects and symposiums (Final Year Project, poster competitions) and more exposure to lab work. That’s true; all the more reason to enter a larger scale competition to apply what we have learnt and research more deeply on our topics of interest.
Here’s something to think about:
- What are the qualifications required to enter prestigious international competitions as representatives of Singapore? A-levels? a Diploma? or just a passion for science and determination to get through the odds?
- How do we ensure that every student is allowed and encouraged to participate in international or local competitions?
These are hard questions that need to be answered. On behalf of all the students who are ineligible, I sincerely hope that they get answered soon.
While we’re on the topic, I’d like to highlight a very unique event called Singapore Leaders of Tomorrow (SLoT) forum that is being organized in Singapore on the October 19th of 2016. It is open to all polytechnics, university students, early career researchers, PhD graduates, postdocs, young professionals and entrepreneurs with a strong interest or background in biotechnology, life science or related sectors in Singapore.
It is Singapore’s first inter-generational leadership summit where some of the world’s leading minds will converge and discuss about the ‘gaps’ in the biotech and healthcare industry. The highlight of the SLoT forum is the Voices of Tomorrow (VoT) competition where 50 young Leaders of Tomorrow (LoTs) i.e. You, will be challenged to create solutions to identified gaps in the biotech and healthcare industry with prizes worth SGD5000 to be won! So this is your chance to take a proactive step towards your future! Go ahead and participate.
Fore more information about this event, click here: bit.ly/slotforum2016. To apply and be one of the Leaders of Tomorrow, click here: bit.ly/slotforumapply