PORTLAND, Oregon, in the United States is the next stop for 11 bright young scientists who have been chosen to represent Malaysia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) next month.
The budding scientists – three teams and two individual contestants – were chosen from more than 150 entries in the national Intel ISEF earlier this year, giving them a chance to prove their mettle at the Olympics of science fairs.
The Intel ISEF is the world’s largest celebration of the sciences, showcasing the world’s most promising young scientists and inventors in all the life sciences, from engineering to microbiology, computer science and environmental science.
“The Intel ISEF provides an opportunity for the world’s best young scientists and innovators to come together to share ideas and showcase cutting-edge science and engineering projects,” said Intel Corporation education director Wendy Hawkins, who was in Malaysia recently.
It was evident in a special showcase in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday that our young scientists have what it takes to produce innovative and cutting-edge science inventions.
The top finalist in the team category, SMK Sultan Ismail II, Kemaman, Trengganu, came up with the “Improved Forest Caretaker”, a device that will enable trees to “cry for help” when they are illegally logged or when a forest fire is detected.
“We were inspired by newspaper reports of the problem of forest fires in Malaysia and Indonesia,” said team member Yeoh Kai Chiat, 17.
The other two team winners are SM Sains Muar, Johor Baru, and Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Taiping, Perak, which showcased an Angle Indicator (Ator) and a project titled “The Effects of Natural Plant Extracts on Medically Important Bacteria”, respectively.
The two individual winners are Chin Wooi Meng of SMJK Chung Ling, Penang, with his “Digital Video Compression Enhancement” device and Wan Mohd Hasbullah Wan Abdul Rahman of MRSM Kuala Terengganu with his ingenious design of a clothes dryer.
At the weeklong ISEF, more than US$3mil (RM11.4mil) in scholarships and prizes will be up for grabs under 14 scientific categories and a team project category. More than 1,200 students from 40 countries will take part in the fair.
Intel Malaysia site manager K.C. Yoon said that since the science fair started in Malaysia, there has been a marked improvement in the quality of entries, particularly in the scientific structure and research of projects.
Director-General of Education Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat said the participation of young Malaysians in the prestigious competition shows their ability to compete with aspiring young scientists in the international arena.
He said the competition is part of efforts to enhance the learning of Science and Mathematics, especially in secondary schools. “It is also a learning process for them to discover how their initiatives could improve the lives of people.”
Indeed, many of the students drew their inspiration from real-life experiences or knowledge of local needs.
Wan Mohd Hasbullah said his project idea was prompted by his own experiences as a residential school student in a monsoon-affected state. “I hope that many people can benefit from my invention,” he added.
ISEF recognises and rewards the brightest young minds and encourages them to continue to build and refine their technology skills.
“This process of defending and showcasing their projects provides students with a better understanding of the realities in the research world and allows them to develop a worldwide network of peers and professionals in their fields of interest. It is certainly empowering to stand by your idea and defend or explain it day in day out for one whole week,” said Hawkins.
More valuable, she added, is the opportunity to discuss their projects with accomplished scientists and engineers.
For Nur Aizaan Anwar of MRSM Taiping, the ISEF will provide a fusion of knowledge. “I hope to gain as much knowledge as I can there.”
Individual category finalist Chin Wooi Meng finds the recognition given by ISEF invaluable.
“I was excited when I found out that I had been selected as it means that my work has been recognised. It motivates me to explore my idea and develop it further. When I go to Oregon, I hope to meet people with whom I can discuss ideas on the different technologies that will improve my invention.”