Friday, July 31, 2015

The DOST National Science and Technology Fair

In the early days, before I began reaching out to fellow humans in the four-corners of the classroom, and make friends with some of them, my cherished companions were the encyclopedias and science almanacs in the library. It was easy to form bonds with them. You say goodbye to your teacher after the last subject ends at 3 pm, drop your belongings right at the door of the school library, and for hours, you get to drift between space and time with pictures and letters, undisturbed behind shelves of tomes seldom explored by other kids inside the spacious room. And these books, don't stab you at the back when others make fun of your habits, or abandon you when other kids do things you hardly enjoy - like sports. Book reading was for me, a solitary leisure activity. What I didn't realize is that I would carry on the fascination, and still gasp at the discoveries, halfway towards the finish line of my life.

It is for this reason I found immense joy when the Weatherman invited me to see the DOST Fair at the SMX Convention Center. He, more than anyone else revere science and technology, and a visit at the exhibit hall, with all those never-before-seen innovations done by our scientists rekindled that sense of wonder in me.

In many ways, this was my formal introduction to such event.

First stop was the exhibit showcasing the hybrid buses and tricycles that would one day complement the mass transportation system already in place in the metropolis. These buses, with two interconnecting carriages, run on clean fuel, and could carry around 200 passengers at a time. They are meant to load and unload passengers at designated bus stops, and may even require their own lanes in a busy highway like Edsa. The motorbikes, meanwhile, could replace the mini gas guzzlers that pollute the suburban air. While it would take another administration to make these buses and trikes run in our major roads, what matters is that the technology exists. Maybe when the right leader take his place, and the new cabinet secretaries realize the urgency to mass produce these eco-friendly vehicles, this public demonstration is just the beginning of our shift towards a more environment-conscious society. 

Onward the Weatherman and I moved to another exhibit, this time, the simulations could save lives when disaster strikes. 

A week before the city-wide earthquake drill happened, visitors to the science fair were able to experience how it feels when the ground shakes during a tremor. At the middle of the exhibition hall was a shaking table similar to the ones used by the Japanese to educate the public about earthquakes. Stepping into the small ring, the mechanical floor begins to sway using simple hydraulic systems. I mentioned that it was simple, for the ground shaking doesn't really come close to the real thing (from what I remember) What I got from the experience was a brief dizzy spell, and that experience of riding a mechanical device better featured in amusement parks. 

Among the innovations we have seen at the fair, there were two which stood out at the exhibit hall. One was the improvements made to Project Noah, the foremost flood control and weather forecasting tool of the government, and the other, which is the Diwata, our nation's ambitious program to send the first home-grown satellite to earth orbit. For Project Noah, new improvements include more accurate data that shows the flood-prone areas of Manila. Also featured at the exhibit are the early-warning devices, from state-of-the-art air raid sirens to digital rain gauges that measure the amount of rain falling at any given time. The Diwata program, meanwhile, was a technological grant from Japan. Using one of their satellite designs, the aim is to build one to serve as our communication beacon in space. A full-size mock-up was on display at the fair, and while it hardly made the spotlight at the exhibit, realizing how this compact machine could start our own space program made me look forward to see it being launched in 2017.

There were many other exhibits worth looking at the fair, like the Lego robot almost the height of a toddler, or the heirloom Abaca and Pina fabric making technique preserved by the science agency for future generations. There were also various advancements in agriculture including native livestock bred and returned to their places of origin, and more cost-effective ways to do shellfish farming. There was also an exhibit about nano-wires already being replicated in the country, as well as a contraption that creates miniature tsunami waves to show how it destroys everything in its path. After making rounds at the exhibit hall, and seeing with my own eyes how vibrant our science and technology innovations are, there is no doubt, we are making progress.

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