“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Again, I have occasion to quote the opening stanza of the song “The Greatest Love of All” written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed, originally recorded by George Benson and later popularised by the late Whitney Houston: “I believe the children are our are future; Teach them well and let them lead the way; Show them all the beauty they possess inside; Give them a sense of pride to make it easier; Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”.

The inspiration this time comes from a magnificent, indeed awesome experience, on Friday afternoon. The event: The 2012 Caribbean Science Foundation’s (CSF) Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) – Student Project Presentations hosted by the University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, at the 3Ws Oval.

The Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF) was established as an independent non-profit non-governmental organization in 2010. Its President is Dr. Cardinal Warde, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT, who is considered one of the world’s leading experts on materials, devices and systems for optical information processing.

The work of the CSF is supported in part by the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation (CADSTI) which founded the CSF. CADSTI (www.cadsti.org) has its centre of gravity outside the region, and its primary function is to mine and mobilise the resources in the worldwide Caribbean Diaspora in support of the CSF.

The mission of the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF) is to “Assist with the diversification of the economies of the Caribbean Region by harnessing science and technology for economic development, and to help raise the standard of living”.

Specifically, the CSF will: (1) Stimulate technology-based entrepreneurship – by identifying and funding science and technology projects in new and existing enterprises that are relevant to the economic development needs of the region; (2) accelerate education reform that supports technology-based entrepreneurship – by promoting and funding programs that (a) Focus on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines; (b) Business and entrepreneurship education; and (c) Foreign languages and communication skills in schools, universities and other educational venues; and (3) Provide scientific and engineering advisory services to Caribbean governments – by working with CADSTI to leverage the expertise that resides in the Diaspora.

In the context of CSF’s entrepreneurship trust, the Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc., promoter of the CBET Shepherding Modelâ„¢ as necessary and sufficient for sustainable business success, is happy be associated with CSF. The logo of the SPISE project is a tree exhibiting its branches and STEMs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) above the ground shadowed by its supporting root system below the ground.

It is interesting to note the similarity of the logo of the organisation “Friends of Trees” in Vancouver which announced the conclusion of the monumental five-year Seed the Future campaign in April 2001 by planting a monumental number of trees. Seed the Future has taught each one of us that we can make a difference!

Similarly, it is clear to me that the CSF has now launched its “Children Seed the Future” campaign by engaging students in SPISE in this inaugural 2012 program. CSF is teaching our children that they too can make a difference! CSFs comprehensive mission to convert these innovative ideas into entrepreneurial activity will mean that in time there will be a steady advance in enterprise development which will then convert into sustainable economic growth in the Caribbean and beyond.

The 10 students who participated in the 2012 SPISE progamme, five girls and boys, hailed from Barbados (3), Belize (1), Jamaica (1), St. Lucia (2), Nevis (1) and Trinidad & Tobago (2). These students constitute the cream which surfaced after a rather stringent and demanding application process.

I was sitting next to Elsworth Young who proudly told me that he brought his grandchildren to witness the presentation in the hope that at least the sense of occasion would have an impact. We marvelled at what the students had achieved in four weeks (two theory and two construction) to the extent that we speculated that they were university students only to be informed later that they were in the 14-17 age range. Indeed, Professor Warde in congratulating the students at the end commented that at MIT it takes students about six weeks to achieve what their Caribbean counterparts achieved in four weeks.

Although the focus was on Science and Technology, the students also studied the one Caribbean concept and made presentations on the wide ethnic diversity of the region. Their Science and Technology projects were in the areas of Electronics and Robotics. The electronics projects built were a Metronome, an Amplifier, an Interval Timer, A Knight Rider Display, an Audio-Oscillator (musical device) and an Electronic Seat Belt Interlock which prevents the car engine from starting unless occupants are “belted up”.

In the underwater tank robotics demonstrations, the teams directed their robots to perform the basic movements of diving, travelling forward and backward, turning left and right and rotating; and navigating objects in the water using sonar technology. They also had a Mandarin Chinese course and gave a surprise demonstration of basic communication in Mandarin.

Congratulations to all involved. Which one of these projects will, with the spirit of God, be the first to be converted into a commercial innovation to the global market thus contributing to economic growth in the Caribbean?

Brian Griffith’s Jewel for Today on Saturday reminded us of an Oprah Winfrey quote: “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe”.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org).

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