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     Volume 7 Issue 3 | January 18, 2008 |

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A Stepping Stone in Science

Elita Karim


A proper career guidance programme or research opportunities are hardly available for science students.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who had rightly stated that men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science. Despite the existence of young minds and talents in Bangladesh who are ready to plant such a seed, these minds are steered away towards other disciplines thanks to the lack of proper platforms and role models in this field.

Plan, an organisation started in 2005 by a group of university students, look for ways to promote science amongst school students through activities and events. Having studied computer science and other science related subjects in their undergraduate studies, it was clear to these students that a proper career in the field of science and research was not available in Bangladesh. As goes the tradition, most meritorious students take up science in secondary school, however, many switching over to business studies in their undergrads, finally ending up working for business corporations and banks. A proper career guidance programme or research opportunities are hardly available for science students.

Thanks to plan, for the very first time, young scientists from Bangladesh will be able to experience an opportunity to compete with other students from all over the world at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (INTEL ISEF) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA from May 11-17, 2008. The world's largest pre-college / university celebration of science, at least 1,500 students from more than 40 nations compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and the grand prize: a $50,000 college scholarship.

"For a very long time, we were thinking of organising a Science Fair for school students," says M Saidur Rahman, Chairperson of Plan who is also the Fair Director of the Bangladesh Regional Science Fair. "I began to search online for international science fair events that take place for students. That was when I came across the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. Every year, several countries including India and Pakistan regularly participate in this International event." After going through several phases of researches, Saidur along with his colleagues at Plan worked on getting an affiliation for students from Bangladesh to participate as well. "It took us more than a year to get the affiliation," says Saidur.

Students will have to compete in the Bangladesh Regional Science Fair 2008, a regional ISEF affiliated science fair, which will be held in the middle of this year. The organisation plans to invite a number of schools in the country through the media. "This event is open for all school / college students from the 9th grade to the 12th grade," says Saidur. "Through ads in the newspapers, television and the radio, the schools will be informed about the regional science fair. We are also trying to reach schools and colleges located in the rural areas so that the science faculties there will be able to encourage the young students to experiment with ideas as well."

Bangladesh Regional Science Fair will also take up steps to help prepare the students for the INTEL International Science & Engineering Fair (IISEF). Students will go through coaching camps, participate in workshops, online chat sessions and online quiz competitions to learn more about the fair and also to stimulate their ideas so as to work on their respective projects.

"This event is an opportunity for us to recognise and reward students with the most innovative and creative projects in the field of science and engineering," exclaims Saidur. "Eventually, it will also work as an awareness to create enthusiasm for science and career opportunities amongst students."

Intel International Science & Engineering Fair identifies eighteen categories based on which students will be sending in their projects, namely Animal Sciences, Behavioural and Social Sciences, Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth and Planetary Science, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, Bioengineering, Energy and Transportation, Environmental Management, Environmental Science, Mathematical Sciences, Medicine and Health, Microbiology, Physics and Astronomy, Plant Sciences and Team Projects.

A Scientific Review Committee (SRC) comprising of Dr. M Kaykobad, Professor of the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, Dr. Miftahur Rahman, former Chair of the Department of Computer Science, North South University and Dr. M A Samad, BioMedical Scientist of the Bangladesh Sugarcane Research Institute has been formed to look over the projects sent in the listed categories.

"The regional Science Fair Office will categorise the projects accordingly and will forward them to judges for the elementary judgment," adds Saidur "This will be done to filter the number of projects. A special judging guideline is also being provided by the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair."

And as the story goes in this part of the world, taking a step towards development and progress is extremely difficult, not to mention the thousands of minor hindrances that add up to create a major obstacle. "Even though we have the affiliation with IISEF, we are still running around trying to get the necessary permissions and paperwork done," explains Saidur. After the ACM Programming Contest and Math Olympiad Exams that take place regularly in Bangladesh now, Saidur believes that the Bangladesh Regional Science Fair 2008 will be yet another platform for the youth to uphold our national pride and the flag internationally.

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