YOUTH have the greatest stake in the future so they must be engaged as agents of innovation and change. Youth around the world have made valuable contributions to sustainable development, and these efforts must be considered when developing policy that aims to support and encourage innovation. To shed light on how youth in the region are using new approaches and perspectives to develop solutions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 11th Regional Congress Search for SEAMEO Young Scientists (SSYS) was held at SEAMEO RECSAM, Penang, Malaysia from 26 February to 2 March 2018 and was attended by a total of 213 (two hundred and thirteen) participants which comprised 183 (one hundred and eighty three) student and teacher delegates from the 11 (eleven) SEAMEO member countries, 9 (nine) judges, 4 (four) workshop facilitators and 17 (seventeen) observers.

As the SSYS is aimed to develop, support and drive young minds towards a sustainable future, the theme for this year’s regional congress is “Youth Creativity for Harmonising Sustainable Development Goals” which is in-line with the focus of the Centre to promote Science and Mathematics education in the Southeast Asia region within the context of sustainable development goals. The event this year received a total of 61 (sixty one) entries with 31 (thirty one) research projects for the Science Congress and 18 (eighteen) research projects for the Mathematics Congress.  The Congress delegates presented their research projects prior to the judging of their project exhibits.  Due to overwhelming submissions of the science projects, 12 (twelve) projects were selected for the exhibition category.

The winning project for Science Congress demonstrated the use of activated carbon from coconut shell combined with bamboo waste to remove/reduce the amount of harmful elements that will enable people in the countryside have access to clean water. Student-researchers Nattawut Thongudomsakoun and Dedvalab Farman from Kiettisack International School, Lao PDR took home the Most Promising Young Scientists award for the Science Congress of their project entitled: “Extraction of Iron Ion for Purification of Water Using Carbon from Coconut Shell and Bamboo Waste”.

Meanwhile, the winning project for the Mathematics Congress by student-researchers Wong Kai Wern and Raymond Chow Yin Hong demonstrated a newly developed algorithm which can be applied onto the webcam to conveniently measure real time concentration of atmospheric aerosols (PM10) accurately. Both students from Heng Ee High School, Malaysia were awarded the Most Promising Young Scientists for the Mathematics Congress of their project entitled: “Development of an Algorithm to Determine Concentration of Atmospheric Aerosols (PM10) with a Webcam”.

Student-researchers Lorenz Simoun P. Dela Cruz, Marion Rodelle M. Minano, Khristine B. Bancod and Angela Mae Apolonio from Las Pinas City National Science High School, Philippines won the Best Overall Award for the Science Exhibition category of their project entitled “Evaluation of Corn (Zea mays) Husk as Reinforcement in the Production of Natural Fiber Composite”.

All well-deserved winners were given recognition and received their awards from the Guest of Honour, His Excellency Prof. Dr. Muhadjir Effendy, Minister of Education and Culture, Indonesia cum SEAMEO Council President. In his closing remarks, His Excellency Prof. Dr. Muhadjir Effendy said that “The principles of sustainability must be embedded in students’ projects and it is important to develop the educational experience at all levels focusing on sustainable development”.  He was indeed gratified to understand that this Congress is able to bring together student delegates with diverse cultural backgrounds from all SEAMEO member countries to share ideas and experiences of their scientific research.  He added that the Congress theme has indeed addressed the most pertinent issue of current global concern that is the importance of safeguarding the natural resources against depletion and to achieve sustainable development of nations.

Ms. Khor Sim Suan, the Acting Centre Director congratulated the student and teacher delegates for their concerted efforts to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge into technological problem-solving activities to address sustainability. She also hoped that the activities of the Congress would be able to encourage and form a basis for the development of the youth’s analytical mind, creativity and higher order thinking skills.

The panel of judges for the Science Congress were: (i) Prof. Dr. Fishman Alexander from Kazan (Volga Region) Federal University, Russia, (ii) Prof. Dr. Bulent Cavas from Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey and (iii) Prof. Dr. Ong Eng Tek from Sultan Idris Education University in Malaysia.  The Mathematics Congress was judged by a panel consisting of: (i) Prof. Dr. Sun Xiaotian from Minzu University of China, (ii) Prof. Dr. Ivan R. Vysotskiy from Center of Educational Excellence (Department of Education) in Moscow and (iii) Ms. Mary Jane O'Callaghan from Curtin University and Curtin College in Western Australia. For the Science Exhibition category, the panel of judges were: (i) Associate Professor Dr. Norizan Esa from Universiti Sains Malaysia, (ii) Dr. Parvinder Singh from the Teacher Education Institute, Penang Campus and (iii) Dr. Yeoh Poh Choo from Teacher Education Institute, Penang Campus.

The panels of judges were impressed by the high standard of entries and with so many excellent projects, it was not an easy feat for them to decide the winners. The research projects were all evaluated on the following criteria mainly - winning points on originality/ingenuity, scientific and mathematical thoughts, research method and process, the impacts of the projects on society, educational and commercial values to name a few as well as opinions of the student-researchers. 

Overall, the SSYS is a platform that provides opportunities for Southeast Asians young scientists to analyse current problems encountered and investigate potential solutions to the problems.  It is envisioned as a worthy intellectual venture and an effective medium to promote lifelong scientific and mathematical values, interest, skills, attitudes and motivation among the youth.  The 11th Regional Congress Search for SEAMEO Young Scientists 2018 not only provides enriching experiences to all the youths in advancing sustainable and inclusive development but it also fosters regional friendships and networking among these young learners.  Hence, we look forward to the 12th Regional Congress SSYS which will be held at SEAMEO RECSAM in 2020.