Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Equipping young people for leadership

Lois Oliver.

THE Caribbean Science Foundation (SCF) is on a mission to create a new generation of leaders in academia and industry.

This ambitious undertaking was recently outlined to The Grenada Advocate by Lois Oliver, the Assistant Director of the Caribbean Science Foundation, located in the CARICOM Research Building at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.

Oliver, who is a former employee of Banks Barbados Breweries Limited, said during an exclusive interview that the CSF is borne out of the Caribbean Diaspora for Science and Technology, which is a group of scientists and like-minded people who want to contribute to the development of this region through STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“One of the major things we do is to host a student programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering, also known as SPISE. What we are doing is targeting superstar science students across the Caribbean,” she said.

Oliver explained that the students are brought to Barbados for four weeks. They, along with some Barbadian participants, are given insights into various career paths, following which they are immersed in Physics, Calculus and Biochemistry programmes.

She said, “We teach them underwater robotics, Mandarin, humanities and entrepreneurship. We want them to start thinking like entrepreneurs, since in our schools we do not do that.

“Rather, students are taught typically to go to school, get an education, and then go and work for somebody else,” Oliver said, noting that the programme is sponsored by the private sector.

Stating that they at the CSF want to change that paradigm, Oliver insisted that the idea is to have the students start thinking about creating jobs, not just for themselves, but also for their Caribbean compatriots.

On completion of the four-week programme, there is a final project presentation where participants to the programme put on a presentation, including their Mandarin skills, to an audience that includes relatives and sponsors of the programme.

Part of that exercise includes the marketing and pitching of a “company” that the students create in the entrepreneurial programme. There is also a robotics competition, since the students are taught to make a robot which is tasked to do specific functions.

She said,“That was an eye-opening experience for them, since none of them made a robot before and this gives them the feel for how relevant things are, because more and more we are seeing robots taking over repetitive and dangerous tasks that man cannot do.”

Oliver recalled that while being employed for ten years at Banks she saw a transition from men packing bottles with their hands to robots which were performing those tasks.

“So we are trying to get this feeling spread among young people. We want young people to develop and to diversify and create innovation and entrepreneurship among our young people,” the Assistant Director said.

“Our aim is to mould these young people into leaders so that our next generation will be leaders in academia and industry. We are doing things to encourage our young people,” she added. (JB)

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