18 September 2007

Mauritius: Forest-side SSS rewarded for their bamboo model house

Port Louis — Creativity mixed with concern for ecology proves that, given the opportunity, young people can open their minds to scientific issues and challenges.

Jean-Noel Geneviève, physics teacher, with his winning team. From left to right: Govindramen Kannadassen, Luchoomun Pritish, Steven Nevin Ponen and Dhannish Gunesh.

From the five awards for the National Science Challenge 2007, organized by the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre (RGSC), the boys of Forest-Side SSS has won the most important one, the Young Scientist award. They made a model of a house in bamboo and demonstrated the utility and contribution of this natural material to the ecological set-up.

Jean-Noel Geneviève, physics teacher at Forest-Side SSS (boys) and facilitator for the team, explains: "Given that our ecological system is suffering from pollution and other constraints, we have thought that houses made of bamboo would be a great benefit to the system's ozone layer. Through this experience, the boys have tried to prove that bamboo was an excellent construction material."

Added to this brilliant idea, the group that conceived the model of the house had the duty to prove its resistance to chemical products and natural elements such as rain. To do so, the students had to use different types of acids. As a consequence, the students did not miss the opportunity of putting forward the support by providing a special treatment.

"I would like, on behalf of the whole group, to thank not only Mr. Geneviève but also the other teachers, especially the ones who gave us the chemical products we needed from the laboratory. Furthermore, some even took very much into account the time we needed for the project by allowing us time to submit our homework and even waited for us to get back to our normal routine to give the tests they were meant to give tests", says Dhannish Gunesh.

The winning team was composed of four young geniuses: Luchoomun Pritish (Group leader), Steven Nevin Ponen, Dhannish Gunesh and Govindramen Kannadassen. As a result of their efforts and productivity, the team received a shield and a Rs 25,000 prize, which will be shared between the four students. Most of them are planning to invest this reward into their studies, more precisely in educational materials specially since their SC exams are approaching.

However, the youngsters have fixed themselves another objective. Indeed, they are planning, rather sooner than later, to build a real house in bamboo with the help of their physics teacher. This idea came following a series of questions from members of the public and of the jury on whether this house would be sustainable if it was built in real size. "We just felt motivated by those questions and wanted to answer those questions by acting! We will try to meet the challenge by building the house", stated Steven Ponen.

Unforgettable experience

Although, the idea sounds unrealistic and too ambitious, one has to bear in mind that houses made of bamboo are very common in countries like Vietnam. Even in Dubai, there is a building whose main components are made of bamboo. Moreover, when Jean-Noël Geneviève and his apprentices talk about the benefits of bamboo in the ecological context, they are proved right as, according to sources, bamboo contains 30% more oxygen than normal trees.

For Luchoomun, the leader of the group, the experience is an unforgettable one. "During the competition, we had our ups and downs. For example, sometimes the experiments did not succeed. But we never felt discouraged. We are now very confident for future tasks. From a personal point of view, I must say that I had a great experience. It was fun and challenging. I must also say that we benefited from the great support of our rector Mrs Kasenally."

Among the other winners, in the Form IV category, France Boyer SSS won the 1st price for group work whereas Sodnac SSS won the award for individual work. Whereas the Lower VI category saw Royal College of Curepipe as winner for group work. Last, but not least, the award for individual work went to Forest-Side SSS (Girls).

The jury panel was composed of Professor Soyjaudah (Chaiman), Professor Ramjeawon and Doctor Li Kam Wah, all from the University of Mauritius, Doctor Ramjaun from the Mauritius Institute of Education, as well as Sookdeo Rungoo and Vikash Oree both from RGSC.

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