National winners of the inaugural Sagicor Visionaries Challenge competition recently completed their five day tour of S.T.E.M.-related attractions in Florida.
Teachers and student team leaders from the 12 competing countries visited the Museum of Science and Industry, the Kennedy Space Centre, Disney’s EPCOT theme park and the University of South Florida.
The exciting tour provided the students and teachers with a hands-on look at nanotechnology, alternative energy, the Kennedy Space Centre Vehicle Assembly Building, rocketry and hydroponics. At the EPCOT theme park they visited the “Behind the Seeds” attraction which focuses on sustainable agriculture.
Assistant Vice President – Marketing, Tracey Knight-Lloyd, said: “The sites we visited on our tour were an embodiment of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.). The teachers were exposed to easy-to-recreate experiments for their students while the students observed numerous opportunities in science outside of the more familiar medical and engineering fields. Overall, the experience was also a wonderful opportunity for the teachers and students to meet their Caribbean counterparts.”
The Sagicor Visionaries Challenge required students to work with a teacher at their institution to identify a problem facing their school or community, and using S.T.E.M., develop a solution to the problem identified.
The aim of the challenge was to ignite an interest in innovation among youth, through S.T.E.M., to help develop the skills and knowledge needed to build and integrate sustainable communities throughout the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Examinations Council and Caribbean Science Foundation partnered with Sagicor Life Inc to develop and execute the challenge. Associate Professor at the University of South Florida and Sagicor Visionaries Challenge Leader for the Caribbean Science Foundation, Maya Trotz, played an integral role throughout the programme and facilitated the visit to the university’s research facilities.
She explained: “Our work does not end here as the whole point of the challenge was to get teams to push projects that transform their schools and communities into better spaces for learning and living. There are so many possibilities for Caribbean-Tampa partnerships to implement some of the projects which the students submitted.
“The energy, interest, creativity and motivation of the students drive home the reason why we started this challenge in the first place. We could not ask for any better outcome than to have young people in the Caribbean so fired up about the possibilities with S.T.E.M. They truly are our sustainability champions.”
Lenski Adams, teacher of the St. Vincent Girls’ High School related his thoughts on the experience: “The Sagicor Visionaries tour was a fantastic experience! Visiting a space shuttle at NASA and seeing the launch sites are not opportunities you get every day.
“The teacher training programme was very beneficial and it will help improve my teaching methods. Now I can do practical exercises with my students which can bring the concepts from their text books to life.”
Stacey Charles, a student of the T. A. Marryshow Community College in Grenada, reported: “Our Sagicor Visionaries tour was amazing! At each location we didn’t just listen, there was so much to see and experience, like making a rocket and tasting fruit grown through hydroponics.
“The tour touched on many different subjects including engineering, astronomy, chemistry, biology and rocket science. For me it was both fun and educational, now that I’m back home I want to try setting up my own hydroponics garden.”
In keeping with the theme of sustainability, students and teachers are now expected to share their experiences and the knowledge gained on the unique tour.