Has anyone heard of the Nobel Prizes? I am sure many readers have but do they know what they are all about? A Swedish chemist, engineer and inventor Alfred Nobel made a heap of money (355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous) manufacturing armaments, so much so that the interest alone, each year, is millions of dollars and it is used to award prizes to scientists and academics in other areas of activity -- in fact St Lucia has won two already!
In recent days, prizes for 2012 have been announced in chemistry, physics and biology -- you might like to check out http://www.bbc.com/ and look at the science pages there in the news section -- right here... http://www.bbc.com/news/science_and_environment/
Last weekend (4 - 6 October), beginning on Thursday night, Grenada had the pleasure of Professor Cardinal Warde of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) address a public meeting at Marryshow House, Grenada, and being the prime-mover at the Caribbean Science Workshop at the Grand Beach Hotel on Friday and Saturday.
A farmer wanting to improve his flock of sheep would get rid of poor performers and keep the best. In the Caribbean the opposite seems to happen -- the means to self-improvement after school and community college mainly exists in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, so those in the smaller islands wanting scientific, engineering and agricultural education at a higher level leave their home country to study, and most never return. By way of example, 80% of the Grenadians with a university degree do not live in Grenada. The main groups which do are doctors, lawyers and civil engineers. Important groups are missing and this needs to be remedied.
Science and engineering, in particular, are the basis of manufacturing. Increased manufacturing in a country such as Grenada needs well trained individuals such as professional engineers -- electrical, chemical, and mechanical -- to found new enterprises, employing local people. The engineering needs for infrastructure such as roads, buildings and buildings are served by civil engineers. Grenada needs to take a leap forward in the manufacturing sector.
The same is the case for agriculture. A leap forward in terms of technology for growing and processing is much needed. Leadership is needed from highly trained individuals working in the private sector.
The Caribbean Science Foundation came to town to infuse enthusiasm, amongst the interested talent in Grenada, in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (which is abbreviated to STEM), and indeed, it succeeded. The Foundation is seeking to increase its size and influence throughout the Caribbean and individuals at the workshop volunteered to be representatives for Grenada and Guyana.
A long term goal of the Foundation is to provide funding for the investigation of possible science based enterprises and of those funded the best will have capital made available to them to enable them to become operational. The Foundation is a private sector organisation willing to accept funds from all sources for these and other purposes promoting the value of an investment in science based enterprises. It is looking at innovative and traditional ways of fund-raising -- perhaps you have some ideas.
For those who are not really aware -- there is an international competition running all the time and the prizes are successful economies -- ones where infrastructure, financial success and well-being of the citizens are steadily improving. There are no judges but there are plenty of commentators!
Does Grenada, do other Caribbean Island states want to 'get ahead' or continue to lag behind, with perpetual poverty, drooping international credit ratings, never enough money to really do what is wanted?
Japan is similar to Grenada in the following ways -- no natural resources, mountainous, with less than 10% of the land suitable for agricultural, islands with a fishing industry, same type of government -- a constitutional monarchy. But the Japanese have filled up the heads of their people with 'know-how' and not just to age 18. They really know how to do things, how to make things and sell them all over the world -- I am sure you know that. Continuous improvement is part of the Japanese industrial ethos.
Standards were discussed at the workshop -- standards being achieved in mathematics and English at the CXC level, quality management standards for business -- so far to my knowledge there are three businesses in Grenada utilizing the ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard, and I have had an instrumental role in two of the three. Standard of work by tradesmen is another important area, yet many tradesmen have been solely trained on the job by others who had not had formal training in the field.
An environmental standard for school children has been developed in Japan and is in use. It was suggested that this be introduced in Grenada.
Chartered engineer Clyde Phillip from CattaCatvet strongly advocated the provision of such training in the states of the Caribbean using modern means of education in order that the engineering technology fraternity (i.e. tradesmen, craftsmen, technicians and technologists receive recognized certificates of competence in their fields. The Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) is mow the standard by which one's competence is measured. Such education is applicable to both new entrants and existing personnel. The Caribbean Association of National Training Agencies (CANTA) is the vehicle through which this can be achieved.
Dr David Evans of Balthazar University, a university presently in an embryonic stage in Grenada, indicated that its principal areas of focus will be agriculture, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and commerce with qualifications at diploma and all degree levels. Approval for a permit to operate, from the Ministry of Education, is awaited. The reader is referred to http://www.balthazaruniversity.com
Professor Warde highlighted the month long programme which ten bright secondary school children attended in Barbados recently where they received mathematics, science where language tuition and worked on several electrical engineering projects and had a great time as a consequence. Next year the planning is to attract 20 such students from around the Caribbean.
There are 30 states with the Caribbean Sea lapping their shores involving four languages -- Dutch, English, French and Spanish. Whilst the focus of the Caribbean Science Foundation has been on the English-speaking states it was agreed that should two representatives of any one of the other states attend an annual Caribbean Science Foundation workshop then that state would be accepted into membership.
Around 30 to 40 high school and community college students attended at various times during the time of the workshop.
Professor Badenock of UWI, Jamaica gave a summary of chemistry research around the Caribbean. Denis Noel of Noelville Ltd espoused the concept of delving deeper into folk remedies citing his venture manufacturing Nutmed cream and spray as a local manufacturing success story.
In essence, the secret to success for small island states lies in becoming much more strongly acquainted with science, the basis of agriculture and engineering, itself the basis of manufacturing.
The next such workshop is to be held in Guyana towards the end of November 2013 and will have a focus on tertiary education, its absence in the STEM areas of focus, in the small Caribbean Island states being a particular concern.
Like to be a Nobel Prize winner, assist in the process of the Caribbean obtaining more Nobel Prize winners?
David L Evans PhD