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The Sunderland All-age School in St. James is still basking in the glory of being crowned Outstanding Youth Innovator for 2012.

The group of students and teachers journeyed to Kingston from rural St. James on Friday (November 9), with fingers crossed, hoping that their invention, Sunderland Quick Patch, would win one of two major prizes in The Minister’s Innovation Awards organised by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.

After a few anxious moments, they erupted with shouts of joy when they were announced as winners in the brand new award category introduced this year. 

The award, sponsored by the Jamaica Public Service Company, recognises achievement and offers encouragement for the next generation of great Jamaican scientists and technologists. It is given to the top innovator under age 30 and comes with a trophy and $1 million prize money. The school will also receive assistance from the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), to register a patent for their product.

Principal of the school, Noel Burgess is ecstatic with the victory. “When we didn’t win in a previous category, my heart sank, all that effort without recognition. But then I was relieved and heartened by the win in the youth category,” Mr. Burgess told JIS after the Gala Awards Banquet at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

He describes Sunderland Quick Patchas a road patch and road surfacing material made from waste engine oil, shredded newspaper and marl. “When it is compacted it gives you a very hard surface and the sample that we lay down in Sunderland was laid down eight months ago and is still there intact,” Mr. Burgess says.

He explains the thought process behind the use of the materials. “In the past, we have used fibre and clay to make wattle and daub. We know that papier-mâché with newspaper makes a hard material, super board is also made in a similar manner, so that somehow inspired us to try the fibre within the mixture to see if it would give us a better product than how it’s being used – black oil being thrown on the surface by the companies these days,” he says.

Mr. Burgess hopes that Sunderland Quick Patch will be a commercial success. “I sincerely hope it will be on the market. Give me another three months and you should be seeing something,” he says.

He explains that with the prize money, the school should be able to get at least one piece of machine, a mixer, to aid in production. “It is hard to mix without mechanical help,” he says.

He gives credit to the students for their role in the project. “They have been very involved. They research, they make charts, they make presentations,” he says.

Grade 7 Student, Shaquille Dawkins, says that he and the others have been working on the project for over a year. “We help to make mixtures and we lay it down on the road to let vehicle run over it to set it on the road smoothly. We know that it is waterproof. Water can’t easily damage it, like others,” he boasts. 

Like his fellow competitors, he is happy for the Minister’s Innovation Award and the prize and recognition it brings.

The Award event was being staged for the fourth time since its introduction in 2005. It is aimed at nurturing a culture of creativity and stimulating, or catalyzing, innovation through the application of science and technology to drive economic growth and wealth creation.

Through the awards, outstanding, innovative individuals and institutions are identified, recognised and rewarded. They are also given assistance to protect and commercialise their innovations. 

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, said he was pleased that after a brief hiatus, the Ministry has once again begun to salute the achievers and innovators in a spectacular way.

The Science and Technology Minister further added that the competition will be held annually. He also promised that: “We are going to get our youngsters in schools to learn some other subjects on their own but to focus now on the sciences; To stop thinking that these are hard subjects. We need more Mathematicians, we need more Chemists, we need more Physicists… It is in these areas that we have opportunities that we are going to exploit,” Minister Paulwell said.

There were 177 entrants for seven top prizes. Teams from the University of the West Indies took three of the awards, including that of ‘Innovator of the Year’ for its entry: ‘A Novel Treatment Against Hyperglycemia and Hypertension’, which utilises the eucalyptus plant to create a drug that can lower high blood pressure and blood sugar.

Other winners on the night were Alison Latchman in the ‘Creativity’ category for Cabbie Chronicles; Leary Myers and Leonardo Clarke of the UWI in the ‘Resource Utilisation Efficiency’ category for Real Time Monitoring and Alert System; Kingsley Palmer in the ‘Resource/Knowledge Valorisation’ category for Agriculture-Water Harvesting and Conservation Techniques; and Ewan Pitter in the Open category, for ‘Renewable Energy Driven Fully Controlled Microcontroller Based On Automated Hydroponic Greenhouse system.