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One Health STEM Innovation Challenge Showcases SEAMEO Young Scientists' Creativity

In tackling complex real-world issues, sometimes the best solutions are found within our communities. This was evident at the recent SEAMEO Young Scientists (SSYS) Congress, where young minds from across Southeast Asia showcased innovative solutions to problems ranging from respiratory conditions to food safety and environmental sustainability From June 10-14, 2024, the 13th Regional Congress Search for SEAMEO Young Scientists (SSYS) took place in Penang, Malaysia, organized by SEAMEO RECSAM in Penang, Malaysia. This event brought together 315 participants, including students, teacher advisors, and observers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. With 101 projects on display, the congress highlighted the region's youth engagement in the One Health movement, aiming for a healthier future for both the environment and humanity.

The theme of this year’s congress, “Youth for One Health through STEM Innovations," perfectly aligned with SEAMEO RECSAM’s mission to promote science and mathematics education in Southeast Asia.  This initiative empowers young individuals to contribute to the One Health field through innovative approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

One Health is an integrated approach that recognizes the interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health. It emphasizes that the well-being of these sectors is interconnected, necessitating cooperation across disciplines and sectors to effectively address health issues. By understanding the interactions between humans, animals, and the environment, One Health aims to prevent and control health threats more efficiently.

Each finalist team delivered engaging presentations, bringing scientific theories to life through experiments and demonstrations. Among the standout projects was “Eye-Rin: Utilization of Deep Learning Algorithms for Real-Time Camera Recognition of Persons with Zoonotic Disease through Eye Images,” developed by student-researcher Justin A. Pacayra and teacher advisor Arnold Jr. Hipolito from Naga City Science High School in the Philippines. Their innovative system, Eye-Rin, uses advanced algorithmsto detect individuals with zoonotic diseases in real-time, facilitating early detection and containment of infectious diseases. Their success earned them the Most Promising Young Scientists award, along with certificates, trophies, a cash prize of RM1800.00, and seed grants worth USD$4000.00 supported by CHEVRON through SEAOHUN.

In addition to the Most Promising Young Scientists award, five other Special Awards were presented, each accompanied by a certificate of accomplishment, a cash prize of RM500.00, and a seed grant worth USD$1,000.00. These awards recognized outstanding contributions in categories such as Benefit to the Community, Educational Contribution, Commercial Potential, Application of STEM Concepts, and Creativity/Innovation. These seed grants will enable young scientists to further expand and advance their research projects at the community level.

The winners were celebrated by distinguished guest including Dr. Azman bin Jusoh, Centre Director of SEAMEO RECSAM, Dr. M. Miandy Munusamy from the Ministry of Education Malaysia, and Ms. Uzma Nawawi, Corporate Affairs Manager from Chevron Malaysia Limited.

Dr. Azman emphasized the role of SSYS as a platform to identify and nurture potential young scientists in Southeast Asia, encouraging them to address real-life challenges while incorporating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Education Malaysia for its ongoing support in enhancing education both nationally and throughout the SEAMEO region, underscoring that investment in education and a culture of research and innovation paves the way for a brighter future.

Ms. Uzma Nawawi highlighted CHEVRON’s commitment to fostering human development through STEM education, congratulating all delegates for their efforts in applying scientific and mathematical knowledge to solve technological problems related to One Health. She expressed hope that the Congress would cultivate analytical minds, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills among the youth, preparing them for academic and professional success.

The panel of judges, led by Chief Judge Dr. Pamela Anne Knight from Newcastle University Medicine in Malaysia, was thoroughly impressed by the exceptional standard of entries. Projects were evaluated on criteria including originality, scientific and mathematical thought, research methods, societal impact, and educational and commercial value.

The 13th Regional Congress Search for SEAMEO Young Scientists was a collaborative effort, organized by SEAMEO RECSAM, co-organized with the Ministry of Education Malaysia, and supported by CHEVRON through SEAOHUN and SEAMEO TROPMED Network. This platform provides invaluable opportunities for young scientists in Southeast Asia to analyze current problems and investigate potential solutions, fostering lifelong scientific and mathematical values, skills, and attitudes.

As the event concluded, excitement for the 14th Regional Congress SSYS, scheduled to be held at SEAMEO RECSAM in 2026, began to build. The promise of innovative solutions and young minds working towards a sustainable future remains a symbol of hope and progress for the region.


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