Ocean Challenge 2022 expands into an international STEM competition: grant up to NTD 100,000 awarding the best proposal winner
The Ocean Affairs Council (OAC) and the American Institute in Taiwan Kaohsiung Branch Office (AIT/K) co-hosted the Ocean Challenge 2022 virtual event on June 1 and 2. This youth-oriented event expanded into an international competition for the first time this year, appealing to quite a number of school teams in the Indo-Pacific region, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia to submit their action proposals.
Sandra Oudkirk, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said in her remarks that this event is particularly significant to her. The ocean is an essential part of her everyday life as being born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She also mentioned that our oceans are some of the world’s most critical natural resources. Protecting our oceans and supporting ocean communities requires partners from both the public and private sectors to work together to create innovative solutions. She encourages everyone to continue applying their creativity to solve some of the major challenges confronting our oceans.
OAC Deputy Minister Ching-Piao, Tsai mentioned that the Ocean Challenge events have engaged and inspired the youth to think critically about these complex ocean problems over the past few years, offering them a platform to learn from each other's perspectives and ideas. This year’s Ocean Challenge also includes participation from young professional and international student teams for the first time. “Among these participants are leading representatives from NGOs, emerging professionals studying in ocean-related graduate programs, as well as enthusiastic and talented high school students hailing from 10 countries with the motivation to protect our oceans”, Tsai added.
The opening session features Dr. Jeremy Werdell’s keynote speech entitled “Observing the microscopic living (and non-living) ocean from space”. Dr. Werdell is currently a satellite oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He shared with the participants how his team takes a satellite measurement from 700 km above the earth’s surface and uses that measurement to study the variability of the oceans. His informative presentation demystified the use of satellites and showed that NASA's research could benefit the earth and help us protect the oceans.
This year saw a score of creative teams vying for the limited finalist slots. Only 19 finalists made it to the final stage. Each team came up with an innovative and science-focused solution that promised to reverse the problems facing the oceans. First place prizes were awarded to National Taiwan Ocean University, Kaohsiung Municipal Rueisiang High School, Indigo Waters Institute, and Terengganu University in Malaysia in each of the four categories. These four outstanding teams also won a cash prize of NTD 50,000.
This year also marks the first time OAC announced a new Best Proposal Award, funding the winner a grant of up to NTD 100,000 to implement their proposal idea. This prize was awarded to IndigoWaters Institute, with their proposal earning the judges’ recognition for its high feasibility. The team proposes to develop an underwater detection tool that can identify abandoned oyster cords and locate hot spots of aquaculture waste, and then deploy suitable removal equipment to get rid of the waste. Their action plan not only intends to solve the long-standing problem of oyster-farming waste in Taiwan but also manages to recycle the discarded oyster cords in a circular economy model.
The Best Proposal Award is bestowed on one outstanding team that best innovatively uses science as a strategic asset to solve ocean issues. The OAC hopes the new funding opportunity can help the youth implement their innovative proposal through a public-private partnership and increase an even greater sense of achievement of the participants.