I recently had the opportunity to work with a group of academically talented 10th graders from Chu Van An High School, one of five magnet schools in Hanoi, who were preparing for participation in the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) from 12-17 May in Phoenix, AZ. Vietnam sent five teams to the fair, including four from Hanoi and one from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). All of the projects won national prizes and both projects from Chu Van An High School won the first prizes.
One girl had designed and carried out a project entitled Research on Production of Isoflavone Aglycones from Soybean by Submerged Fermentation and another team, consisting of three boys, had a project entitled A Novel Method for Laboratory Wastewater Treatment Using Limestone and Sawdust. The first resulted in the production of a functional food made from soybeans that is rich in isovlavone aglycones (IA), which can help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease. The other project focuses on an innovative and inexpensive way to treat laboratory wastewater, a major cause of environmental pollution in Vietnam and other countries.
It was the trip that I would remember for the rest of my life.
The week in Phoenix was fantastic, we were able to meet all finalists, teachers and observers from all around the world. They were all very friendly and, in my point of view, nerdy as well. We attended almost every event that Intel organised, they had the pin exchange night, baseball night and a student mixing party right after the competition day had been done. By taking part in those events, we could make friends with students from other parts of the world and sharing the same passion in science.
As I expected, the competition did not take the whole week; judges just went to our booths only one day. It was quite a lot of pressure since there were only finalists and judges in that gigantic hall. We met 7 grand award judges and 5 special award judges, everything was scheduled so we could prepare ourselves, correct our mistakes before meeting them. Thanks to the good preparation at home, we did not have any trouble answering judges’ questions. They were quite the same as those that scientists had asked us before we went to the competition.
After the competition day was the public opening morning, when people from all around the city, teachers and party members were allowed to access the hall. We met the press, some scientists and also many kids from schools nearby. Their questions were quite interesting and I think some were far more scientific than judges’ ones. In the afternoon, the special award ceremony was held.
… Although we didn’t win any prizes but being able to take part in such a great competition, meet and make friends with many people like that, I don’t think there’s any reason to be sad.
On a personal note, it was a pleasure working with such bright, creative and dedicated high school students. They are yet another reason I am optimistic about the future of Vietnam. What is needed, of course, is more assistance to help them and other young people pursue their ideas and do cutting-edge work that addresses pressing issues such as environmental pollution, the prevention and treatment of diseases, etc.
Congratulations to all of the Vietnamese teams for being selected to represent their schools and country at ISEF 2013, including the two teams that received fourth awards in two different categories:
Fourth Award of $500 (Engineering: Electrical and Mechanical)
EE320 An Automatic Environmental Monitoring System: Application to Aquaponics for Home Grown Food, Le Hong Phong High School for the Gifted, HCMC
Fourth Award of $500 (Environmental Management)
EN318 Microfiltration Property of Chicken Eggshell Membrane and Potential Usage in Portable Water Filtering, Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted
A special thanks to Dr. Jean Hernandez, President of Edmonds Community College and Mr. David Cordell, Vice President of International Education, for their interest and assistance in inviting a biology faculty member from ECC to offer advice and guidance to the students. I look forward to seeing more of this win-win interaction between US faculty & staff and Vietnamese students.