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AAAS brings delegation of top U.S. students and science teachers to Beijing conference
Nineteen top U.S. science students and four accomplished high school science teachers arrived in Beijing this week in a delegation organized by AAAS for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation association's 3rd Youth Science Festival.
At the weeklong conference, from 3-9 August, the students were scheduled to attend exhibitions and visit key universities, research institutes, museums, science parks, high-tech enterprises and research and development facilities. The centerpiece of their visit is an exercise in breaking down borders: Each will join an international team of 20 to 30 students from around the Pacific Rim, and the teams will engage in a science project competition.
The faculty members, meanwhile, were to attend forums and make presentations, in addition to joining in exhibitions and cultural events.
"Science and engineering research is becoming increasingly international in scope, because of globalization," Yolanda George, AAAS's deputy director of Education and Human Resources, said before the conference. "I think this event will give them [the students and the faculty members] a new perspective on science and engineering. They'll have a chance to hear about the science and engineering issues that other countries are dealing with. It's going to be a great opportunity for them."
AAAS's International Office organized U.S. participation in the festival, with support from the National Science Foundation. The delegation was led by George and Clinton Turner Jr., AAAS's project manager for Science NetLinks.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, brings together 21 Pacific Rim countries and economic jurisdictions in an effort to encourage growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Over 2.5 billion people live in its member countries, and those countries and jurisdictions have a combined annual gross domestic product of $19 trillion dollars and account for 47 percent of world trade.
The first APEC youth science festival was held in 1998 in Seoul, South Korea; the second was held two years later in Singapore. The third was scheduled for Beijing in 2003, but it was postponed for a year until a deadly outbreak of SARS was brought under control.
Nearly 900 student-scientists, most of them from high school, and nearly 350 teachers, researchers and officials are attending the Beijing event, which is hosted this year by China's Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education, the China Association for Science and Technology, the Central Committee of the Chinese Youth League and the city government of Beijing.
The purpose of the event is "to arouse an interest of science and technology among youths of the APEC region; to promote science and technology exchanges and interactions, including science education among young students and science teachers; to raise public awareness of science and technology; and to facilitate the mutual development of science and technology in the Asia and Pacific Region," said Gu Min of the festival's organizing committee secretariat.
At an orientation session last Friday, on the eve of their departure for Beijing, members of the U.S. delegation already were imbued with that spirit.
Aaron Brown, 18, had won a senior Grand Award at a Detroit-area science fair while he was a student at the city's Cass Technical High School; his project focused on how electro-magnetic fields adversely affect artemia, a microscopic shrimp. He then went on to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2002 Louisville, Ky.
The APEC event "will bring together bright minds of all different races and backgrounds," said Brown, 18, who will be attending Florida A&M University in the fall. "Seeing other young people who have the same interests as you, seeing all these bright minds coming togetherit's going to be amazing…. It will allow all of us to move forward into the future together."
That's precisely why NSF has funded U.S. delegations to previous APEC Youth Science Festivals and to the current one in Beijing, said Frances Li, a senior staff associate in NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering.
"The APEC Youth Science Festival meshes well with NSF's goal of fostering a diverse, globally-oriented workforce of scientists and engineers," Li said. "The AYSF aims to encourage interest in science and engineering careers and to promote cross-cultural friendship. NSF has funded AAAS to organize participation in the festival by a cross-section of bright students from around this country. NSF anticipates that as the alumni of these festivals mature into influential contributors to the science and engineering enterprise of the 21st century, the common bond of the festival experience will catalyze cooperative linkages around and across the Pacific Rim."
Edward W. Lempinen
5 August 2004