With the aim of creating the next Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page, the Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) kicked off last Saturday at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus.
The 2017 SPISE cohort consists of 24 secondary school students from 13 Caribbean countries. They will be immersed in an intensive programme consisting of physics, calculus, biochemistry, robotics, computer programming and entrepreneurship until August 14.
The students who are admitted into the programme are scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The programme, in its sixth year, was established by interim executive director Cardinal Warde and co-executive director Dinah Sah of the Caribbean Science Foundation. It is modelled after the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) hosted by the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology, and aims to ensure that the Caribbean has a stake in grooming the next generation of technological business leaders.
SPISE has had 109 graduates over the past six years, and Cardinal Warde said he hoped the participants would be responsible for rescuing the region from its fiscal deficit.
“We want these students to go on – those who are interested in entrepreneurship – to help build global companies right here in the Caribbean, to help bring in foreign exchange to pay down some of our debt,” he said.
While he acknowledged that governments were shifting their focus to STEM, Warde stressed that enough was still not being done, due to regional governments being unable to access funds.
He said it would be ideal for the next generation to be knowledgeable in computer programming or coding, especially since the region is currently behind in the robotics field.
“We believe that we can help the countries, and especially the governments, to get robotics into the schools and to put it on the road map for the jobs of the future, because the workplace of the future has to know about coding and someone has got to build those robots that replace all blue collar workers that are out there today,” Warde said.