The Belize Sagicor Visionary Challenge National Competition was held on Wednesday, December 3rd and saw the participation of two groups from San Pedro and one from Caye Caulker. The challenge is aimed at stimulating secondary school students to develop solutions to problems faced in their community using the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) method. Held at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Belize City, this year’s competition saw the participation of 32 projects from 28 high schools across the country.
At the end of the competition team Bishop Martin High School from the Orange Walk District took the first place win for the second year in a row. Although neither of the islands’ teams placed, they certainly did a great job and the team from Caye Caulker’s Ocean Academy was even awarded the “Most Creative and Innovative Project” award.
Ocean’s Academy’s team’s project was titled “Caye Caulker Mangrove Action Plan” and it addressed the problem of intense deforestation of mangroves due to coastal development, through education, reforestation and interactive involvement using mobile app technology. “The first part of the plan involved educating the public about the importance of mangroves to the environment and the local economy. We then will work with the Village Council to understand the laws concerning mangroves and encourage a reforestation program whenever mangroves are removed. We would then experiment with different planting methods, such as the Riley technique, to determine the most effective techniques for our location. Finally, we would create an interactive smart phone app that will allow people to learn about mangroves, see pictures of our mangrove planting experiments and visit the sites on a trail walk using GPS coordinates. Visitors are invited to upload photographs of the growing plants to aid with our data collection and analysis.
Ocean Academy Environmental Club’s ultimate goal is to increase awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystems and reduce mangrove deforestation,” said Joni Miller on the group’s project. Caye Caulker’s team included team leader Buddy Magana, and members Patrick, Adreanne, Daya, Kenisha and science teacher Sarah Requena. For the project’s uniqueness, the judges awarded it the “Most Creative and Innovative Project” award.
San Pedro High School presented two projects. The first project encompassed a solution for waste management on the island. The team was compromised of Rosanna Guerrero, Kaila Wade, Shanairy Xiu and Jacqueline Hernandez and they developed planes for a sanitary landfill that would not only control the island’s waste management problem but also provide a small scale energy source and fertilizer to the community. The second project was developed by Jahson Wright, Bruce Garbutt, Michael Sosa, Lester Alvarez, and Kevin Fuentes and outlined a solution to high electricity rates. The project entailed the creation of a windmill farm to provide eco-friendly power to islanders. Both teams presented well developed solutions to their identified problems.
SAGICOR Belize Sales and Marketing Executive, Abel Simpson explained the importance of the competition as it enables students to think beyond what instructors teach them. “The truth of the matter is that we have a lot of brain power among our students here in Belize. This competition really is designed to challenge them to get away from the television and Facebook and everything else. They come up with very innovative ideas and solutions to the challenges facing their communities and their schools. We’re hoping that we have enough interest from the private sector, because as you move around you will notice that we have some very excellent proposals here, and we’re hoping the private sector will be able to take advantage of that, and to be able to run with it, and provide the funding, so that they could actually become a reality,” said Simpson.
The competition is hosted by the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), Sagicor (a Caribbean insurance company) and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and sees the participation of students from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Hillsborough County – Tampa, Florida, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize. The top three places of each national competition advance to compete at the Regional Sagicor Visionary Challenge schedule to takes place in Barbados in July 2015.
Representing Belize at the regional competition will be the first place team from Bishop Martin High School. Their project, entitled “Chaya Mayan Power for Modern Times” demonstrated how to solve malnutrition using Chaya. The regional winner will receive $5,000US toward the development of their project. In addition, the first place team along with the second and third place teams, both from Saint Catherine’s Academy, have been invited to travel to Tampa, Florida USA to participate in the STEM Ambassador Program in July 2015.
Ocean Academy and San Pedro High School would like to thank everyone that made their participation possible. They join The San Pedro Sun in congratulating all the participating teams and best of luck to Bishop Martin High School at the Regional Sagicor Visionary Challenge!