Jamaican Student Excels in Regional Science Programme

Photo: JIS Photographer Upper sixth form student at the American International School of Kingston (AISK), Brandon Chin Loy (left), assists Jodi Porter, fellow participant in the Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE), to drill holes into a metal plate hub for a wind turbine they were designing. Brandon was one of four Jamaican high school students to participate in the regional programme, put on by the Caribbean Science Foundation, from July 18 to August 14, at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill campus.

Story Highlights

  • Filled with a passion for engineering and a vision of a sustainable future for Jamaica, 17-year-old Brandon Chin Loy has already tasked himself with the responsibility of developing innovative ways to create environmentally friendly sources of energy.
  • The programme, put on by the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), was hosted at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, in Barbados.
  • Between July 16 and 18, Brandon, along with three other Jamaican students, earned the opportunity to be among 18 Caribbean students, who participated in the very competitive Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE), designed to groom Caribbean youth to become technology entrepreneurs.

Filled with a passion for engineering and a vision of a sustainable future for Jamaica, 17-year-old Brandon Chin Loy has already tasked himself with the responsibility of developing innovative ways to create environmentally friendly sources of energy.
“With the pace at which we are depleting our (natural) resources, not only in Jamaica but the world at large, we need to find a way to decelerate that process. And in the Caribbean, I think it is definitely possible that we are able to invent technologies that will generate energy in an environmentally clean manner,” he says.
An upper sixth-form student at the American International School of Kingston (AISK), Brandon tells JIS News that he is aspiring towards a career in engineering as he would like to use innovation in the field to reduce dependence on oil as a source of energy.
Between July 16 and 18, Brandon, along with three other Jamaican students, earned the opportunity to be among 18 Caribbean students, who participated in the very competitive Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE), designed to groom Caribbean youth to become technology entrepreneurs.
The others are Melissa Douglas of the St. Andrew High School; Fitzroy Wickham from York Castle High, St. Ann; and Erica Virgo from DeCarteret College, Manchester.
The programme, put on by the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), was hosted at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, in Barbados.
SPISE is geared at promoting economic development in the Caribbean countries. Students in the programme ranged in age from 16 to 18.

The four Jamaican students, who participated in the Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE), share a moment with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor and Director of SPISE, Professor Cardinal Warde (3rd right) and his wife, Dr. Dinah Sah (3rd left). The students (from left) are: upper sixth former at the American International School of Kingston (AISK), Brandon Chin Loy; York Castle High student, Fitzroy Wickham; St. Andrew High student, Melissa Douglas; and DeCarteret High student, Erica Virgo. The Jamaicans were part of a group of 18 Caribbean students exposed to science and engineering courses through the programme, put on by the Caribbean Science Foundation, between July 18 and August 14, at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill campus.

The mission of the CSF is to assist with the diversification of the economies of the Caribbean region by harnessing science and technology for economic development, and to help raise the standard of living.
Students from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, also participated in the 2015 programme.

For Brandon, who was advised of the programme by counsellors at his school, SPISE gave him the head start he needed for a university career in the field of engineering.
Students were trained in courses that included university-level calculus, physics, biochemistry, entrepreneurship and Mandarin, and hands-on projects in underwater robotics and renewable energy/electronics.
“At the beginning of the programme, we were given a diagnostic test in each of the subject areas to determine what level we were and they placed us in a class according to that level,” Brandon explains.

He tells JIS News that having very little experience in biology, his score in that subject at the start of the programme was below standard. However, with determination and the guidance of the teachers, he was named top student and most improved student in biochemistry by the end of the course. He was also top student in calculus 2 and Mandarin.

Describing himself as ambitious, but humble, the high achiever says he is motivated by the feeling of pride when he has achieved a goal he has worked hard towards.
“I do set goals and work towards them, and I won’t let anything get in between that,” Brandon says.

Although he has wavered between aspiring towards a career in medicine and law, he says, for now, his interest in engineering, and particularly chemical engineering, remains strong.
“I like the sciences and I do like to incorporate different scientific fields and mathematics, and combining the tools from those areas to get something new. That’s basically the foundation for engineering and that’s something that interests me,” he notes.

Brandon is encouraging more students to become involved in the sciences.
“I know a lot of students give up on the sciences because it’s too difficult, and in some cases, it is. However, it just takes some patience and there needs to be some sort of support system, whether it be from parents or the science teachers. I think they just need to be encouraged to stay on that path and work towards a conceptual understanding of the subject and have the patience,” he points out.
He is urging students to “stay motivated and maintain a positive attitude because I know that a negative attitude does have an impact on our ability to achieve what we want and in this case, that’s being able to master the sciences.”

Brandon has his eyes on matriculating to top engineering universities in the United States such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Stanford University.
“However, if I don’t get into those, I will not be disappointed. I am just focused on getting into a university with a strong engineering programme, so I can develop myself and my skill and come back to Jamaica and contribute to the economy,” tells JIS News.

SPISE offered career seminars to encourage awareness among the students about the diversity of science-related jobs and careers.
In addition, workshops were conducted to coach participants on how to optimise their chance of admission with financial aid to the world’s top universities.

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