Young Filipino researchers triumph in international challenge of innovation

May 27, 2017

PASIG CITY, May 27, 2017 - A generation of innovators equipped with 21st century skillsand ready to respond to the constantly shifting demands of today’s challenging world.

This is one of the aspirations of the Department of Education (DepEd) for K to 12 learners that five young Filipino learners successfully responded to as they participated and bagged recognition in the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles, California.

Rubeliene Chezka Gloria, Nadine Antonette Obafial, and Myrelle Angela Colas of Davao City National High School won the Second Grand Award in the ISEF Plant Sciences division for finding a solution to the massive damage caused by adult black rice bug through their study, “Insecticidal Activity of Acacia (Samanea saman) Bark Extract Against Adult Rice Black Bug (Scotinophora sp.).”

With more than half of the world population dependent on rice and corn as staple food, the young scientists sought to develop an organic, renewable, and cost-efficient insecticide that does not harm beneficial insects, helps increase the production of healthier and safe-to-eat crops, and does not poison the soil where crops are grown.

The trio found the benefit of a naturally obtainable variable to develop and produce this insecticide in the humble acacia bark. But being able to test its properties against the adult black rice bug proved to be difficult since the invasive pests’ flight patterns are affected by the lunar cycle and the appearance of a full moon at midnight.

“The biggest challenge that we’ve encountered was the collection of adult black rice bugs. . . In line with this, we travelled so far from our city. It was also difficult for us to manage our time well since we are studying and conducting our study at the same time,” Mr. Joseph Jacob, one of the team’s mentors, pointed out.

The severe damage caused by the pests has been reported in many countries as well, prompting them to be deeply interested in unraveling new knowledge in the life, behavior, and mortality of the adult black rice bug. Similarly, the team wanted to generate new information about the acacia – the important functions of the tree and its many parts.

The young researchers’ feat landed their names among the stars – specifically among the asteroid belt, where three minor planets will reportedly be named after each of them. While their success has reached celestial heights, the challenges that need attention from fresh eyes remain very much earthbound.

Completing the Philippine team are Maries Ann Silvestre of Juan R. Liwag Memorial High School in Gapan, Nueva Ecijaand Ricky Dave Mercado of Nabuslot National High School in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro.

Silvestre’s study, “Reduction of beta-amyloid Aggregation and Attenuation of Paralysis of Coconut (Cocos nucifera) Crude Ethanolic Leaf Extract in Transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans Model of Alzheimer’s disease and Inclusion Body Myositis,” explored the possibility of curing the degenerative disease of the

brain and competed in the Biochemistry division of ISEF. Meanwhile, Mercado’s research, “Surface Morphology of the Different Agricultural Wastes Used as a Sound Absorber and Thermal Insulator,” probed into the noise reduction property of agricultural wastes, specifically coconut husks that have more diverse microporous cells, and competed in the Environmental Engineering category.

For young learners and future scientists, Jacob advised, “To the future young researchers, just continue to be curious because that curiosity of yours could eventually lead to formulate solutions to the alarming problems of the world. Live your passion and have much dedication in everything you do. . . Lastly, always finish what you’ve started.”