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by Louise M. Francisco Researcher
02-June-2008 BusinessMirror

It is all systems go for the Eighth Asean Science and Technology Week (ASTW) from July 1 to 11, which will be hosted by the Philippines.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Philippine's lead agency in charge for the event, and the Asean Foundation (AF) last week signed a memorandum of agreement for the holding of the ASTW. The agreement was signed by the Philippines' Science Secretary Dr. Estrella Alabastro and AF executive director Dr. Filemon Uriarte Jr., a former DOST chief.

With the agreement came a funding support from Asean Foundation amounting to $67,087.20, or 80 percent of the ASTW total budget of $83,859.

Uriarte said the ASTW is his first project in AF since he assumed the executive director post in January.

"I froze 15 projects in the pipeline just to give way to ASTW," said Uriarte.

"I encourage science institutions, even science nongovernment organizations, to submit proposals that we can fund. . . . We should work hard to increase our GDP [gross development product] per capita so as not to lag behind our neighbors in Asia," Uriarte suggested.

In a speech at the agreement signing at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati, Alabastro explained that ASTW is being conducted every three years and hosted by Asean member-countries on a rotational basis.

"It [ASTW] is a gathering of scientists, technologists and experts from academe, the government and the private sector to promote science and technology [S&T] development in the region by creating greater awareness on S&T, developing S&T culture, as well as providing a medium for participation and collaboration in regional S&T programs," Alabastro said.

Among the activities lined up for the ASTW are:
a. Subcommittees/Dialogue Partners'and other related meetings;
b. 55th Meeting of Asean Committee on Science and Technology;
c. Scientific and Technical Conferences;
d. 5th Informal Ministerial Meeting on Science and Technology;
e. Asean S&T Awards;
f. Asean S&T Exhibition; and
g. Asean Youth Science Summit

With a theme "Making Science Work for You," the Eighth ASTW will be celebrated in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the DOST.

In the Asean Youth Science Summit, the youth, who are being honed as next leaders of regional S&T development, will discuss "relevant scientific and global issues."

Alabastro added, "The summit will also orient the Asean youth and those from other participating countries on the diplomatic and parliamentary ways in handling problems that affect nations on a regional as well as global scale."

Dr. Ester Ogena, director of the Science Education Institute of the DOST, is expecting a total of 151 participants, 98 students and 53 teachers, in the youth summit.

Participating high-school students of AYSS will have a focus group discussion on spatial science, extreme games, nuclear energy and genetically modified food. Their teachers, on the other hand, will have a discussion on best practices in teaching science and mathematics.

To further entice the youngsters to come and compete, Asean Foundation contracted De La Salle University professors and students in creating the interactive computer game "Asean Quest."

The opening billboard of the game was shown to the press with a story line: a typhoon devastated the 10 Asean counties and a nuclear power plant must be built after all the power lines were shut down.

A player needs to enter all countries to fix power plant connections and finish the game. However, the player must read first the Asean declaration and type the word "welcome" in the Asean countries' respective language (i.e Maligayang pagdating in Filipino, or yin-dee dtôn ráp in Thai).

Asean Quest includes four mini-games, such as exploring a warehouse, assembling the nuclear power plant, neutralizing pests in sugar cane and assembling the biofuel power plant.

It is also packed with moving interfaces filled with trivia about each Asean country. There is also a control room where the Asean countries' 10 flags are located. Once a flag is clicked, the country's national anthem will play.

"This game [Quest] is intended for educational purposes because a player is forced to learn about other countries," said Uriarte.

He added, "Players will also learn how to build a real power plant. A certificate will be issued at the end of the game."

The Asean Foundation and DOST have yet to determine whether to distribute the game free of charge or for a fee to cover the game's production cost.

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