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CYSF 2007 - Opening Ceremony

Over 200 of them, they filtered into the registration room, eager to get into the week of activity that lay ahead of them. Hailing from Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and good old T&T, participants in the 2007 edition of the Caribbean Youth Science Forum made their initial touchdown at the UWI St. Augustine Campus last Sunday for general registration.

Fees all paid up and information kits in hand – including special printed T-shirts and name tags bearing the Forum’s logo – they soon set about planning their social itineraries, booking spots for a variety of field trips carded for later in the week. This year’s event will see group visits to thirteen different institutions and organisations including the Forensic Science Centre, the Caribbean New Media Group, the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago and the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Over lunch, the new arrivals took the opportunity to initiate introductions prior to the structured orientation and ice-breaker sessions where wider getting-to-know-you opportunities would arise. Several of them discussed their expectations for the week ahead, one even vowing to develop “a nice Trini accent” during the time spent here!

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CYSF 2007

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CYSF 2005

CYSF 2004

CYSF 2003

Then it was on to the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) Graduation Pavilion at O’Meara for the late afternoon Opening Ceremony. What a ceremony it was! The young participants - now dressed in the colours of their appointed houses - were mesmerised by two wizards of science, one wowing them with his stories of his creation of devices for use in outer space and the other transporting them to realms of musical magic with his golden tenor voice.

Mrs. Maureen Manchouck, NIHERST President, delivered Opening Remarks. In her brief address, she spoke of the great pride which she had in the region’s young people, particularly the CYSF participants of today and previous years. She said that the continuing success of the Forum was in no small measure due to the tremendous response of the participants to the stated objectives of the Forum. Since much is expected of those to whom much is given, she also outlined that the expectation of NIHERST would therefore be loyalty and commitment of participants to each other and to the region in their pursuit of excellence at the realisation of their careers in science.

Mr. Robert Rashford, President and Chief Executive Officer of Genesis Engineering Solutions Incorporated addressed the audience as the visiting scientist for this year’s CYSF. Honoured on several occasions by NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA – for his contributions to work on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite and the Hubble Space Telescope, he proved to be a popular choice of speaker with the young audience.

A brief insight into his portfolio of work visibly excited the youngsters, and no doubt encouraged them to dream big dreams for a future in science. Mr. Rashford was quick to remind them that the pursuit of a career in science was not without its challenges, and his talk was also sprinkled with brief anecdotes about the challenges that he himself faced in his career as an aeronautical and design engineer.
He admired the enthusiasm and eagerness of the participants and reminded them of how fortunate they were to have the opportunity of this Forum to meet with scientists and their peers in the region at this critical juncture in their development. He encouraged them to remember to be team players and repeated the oft-used advisory that the word team did not have an ‘I’ in it. He also urged them to welcome the challenges that they may face along the way and suggested that good scientists sometimes do not need ‘a lot of sleep’ when the ideas really begin to flow!

Mr. Rashford promised to be with participants at every step of the way during the Forum, not just giving lectures but also sitting in on other lectures and riding along with them on field trips. His enthusiasm for science was evident and clearly was infectious, judging from the reactions of the captive audience of CYSF participants around the room.

From infectious enthusiasm to goose bumps, the Opening Ceremony served up a range of emotions, probably bringing truth to the NIHERST expectation that this will truly go down as the biggest and the best CYSF hosted thus far. Mr. Edward Cumberbatch, an outstanding tenor with the Lydian Singers, and UTT Lecturer in Physics, graced the audience with a spectacular delivery of the song “He Raised Me Up”. The musical interlude was met with rapturous applause and a few tear-filled eyes in response to Mr. Cumberbatch’s soulful rendition.

Following this, Dr. Cheryl Bennett, Associate Provost Quality Assurance and Accreditation of UTT, took her turn at the podium. She joined with Mr. Rashford in urging the Forum’s participants to make the most of the opportunities presented by the event, and further encouraged them to ‘pick the brain’ of the visiting scientist during their encounters with him during the week. She then formally declared the Forum open, and yielded another of the evening’s resounding rounds of applause from the energetic young audience.

Over the sharing of light refreshments at the end of the ceremony, students took the advice of the speakers, as they continued making introductions, also using the time to collect photographic memories of the 2007 CYSF. Soon they had to shuttle back to the UWI campus for the late-night ice-breaker session. For certain sleep was a passing luxury on the first day of CYSF!

Written: July 2007

 

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