After participating in Grenadian STEAM’s Student Project Competition 2019, several Grenadian students, in a ceremony last month, presented promising solutions to issues their country is currently facing. The interdisciplinary teams developed methods of combating the sargassum seaweed inundation and maximizing agricultural production.
Grenadian STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture, and Mathematics), an organization led by young Grenadians, launched the competition in January this year. In 2016, the organization, often referred to as GrenSTEAM, was founded to expose Grenadian students to career opportunities in STEAM.
“The goal of the project competition was to encourage students to work creatively and collaboratively on projects that can lead to improvements within our home of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique,” GrenSTEAM’s founder and president, Arlene Hayes, expressed.
Participants in the competition were challenged to use their knowledge, creativity, and innovation to address the sargassum seaweed issue, solar power, agricultural production, or smart towns. Solutions were expected to involve STEAM fields. Two teams made it to the final stage of the competition with complete projects. Nixor, the Sargassum Seaweed Company, won the first-place prize of a group day pass to the Coyaba Beach Resort in Grenada. The second-place prize was $100 in cash.
Sargassum seaweed has been invading many Caribbean beaches over the past few years. According to BBC News, this may be our “new normal”. Finding different ways to combat the issue is, therefore, critical. Edible sushi paper, pharmaceuticals and liquid fertilizer were some uses of sargassum seaweed that the team behind Nixor considered and researched as solutions to the problem. Eventually, the group explored further into using sargassum seaweed as a liquid fertilizer in hydroponics, which is the growth of plants in a nutrient solution without the use of soil. The team produced a sample of the precursory liquid fertilizer.
The second-place team, with only two members, focused on agricultural production to capitalize on the excess growth of mangoes on the island by researching ways in which mangoes could be used to create natural cosmetics.
Participating in the competition was no easy task for the participants who had to balance CAPE exams and courses at the T.A. Marryshow Community College, all while experimenting and conducting research in the field. But the experience was stimulating and thought-provoking.
“Despite the many challenges, the experience of interviewing and meeting persons in the field of agriculture, researching and carrying out tests was one of the best experiences. I actually felt submerged in the field and [it] gave me the confirmation I needed, that agriculture was indeed the right field for me,” Amy Alfred, team leader of the second-place team remarked.
Also, collaboration during the research and experimenting stages fostered meaningful friendships and teamwork.
“My group’s window-shopping excursion proved to be a bonding moment for the group’s members and made the task seem less like a chore. It was inspirational to say the least, the joy of seeing part of our initial vision come to life granted us a sense of fulfilment like that of a mother watching their child taking its first steps,” Joshua Francis, a team member of Nixor expressed.
This year’s competition has been encouraging to the members of GrenSTEAM who would love to host the competition every year. The final presentations last month is not the end of the road as participants on both teams are considering to bring their ideas to life in the future after receiving positive feedback.
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