Friday, June 21, 2013

A Small Town Boy's International Feat

One thing I love about blogging is the opportunity to meet different folks from different strokes. Individuals who followed their passions and eventually carved a name for themselves. This is the story of a small town boy who will inspire students to do their best and show the rest of the world the Filipino caliber. 

I was given the chance to attend a media round table discussion with Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2013 award-winner Judel Jay A. Tabsing from Panabo City National High School (PCNHS), Davao del Norte. Although this is very far from my field of communications, my presence there were because one - I am and will always be a development worker (I worked five and half years for an education project) and two - stories like these I believe deserve everyone's time and attention. 

Sixteen-year old Judel bested more than 300 entries from all over the world at the recently-concluded Intel ISEF 2013 competition in Phoenix, Arizona last May 22-27, 2013. His study entitled Impatiens balsamina Leaf Extract as Potential Fungicide Against Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense Tropical Race 4 Causing Fusarium Wilt of Banana won fourth award in the Plant Sciences Category.

Judel's winning moment at the Intel ISEF 2013 (Photo courtesy of Intel Phils.)
The title I know is a mouthful  so here's a layman's explanation - Fusarium wilt is a devastating disease of the banana found in almost all banana-producing countries worldwide. A fungus called Fusariumoxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc), which causes the bananas to wilt faster, has prominently affected about 80% of the world’s banana production, including the most exported banana variety in the Philippines, Cavendish bananas. Judel Jay A. Tabsing has developed an environmentally-friendly, effective and inexpensive treatment to the banana disease by proposing to use Impatiens balsamina, commonly known as Kamantigue, leaf extract as an alternative fungicide. The banana industry contributes to majority of the Philippine economy. About 80,000 hectares of banana plantations are based in Mindanao alone.

Judel Tabsing: Small town boy, international success
“My research has great impact to both the environment and the banana industry, because it encourages banana producers to use organic-based fungicide instead of synthetic fungicide.I envision a future where agriculture is safer and greener in the Philippines. I hope my project will be adopted on a local then national scale,” said Tabsing. During the media event, he explained that the Kamatigue plant contains high levels of flavanoids, steroids and Phenolic acid which were the active ingredients for his environment-friendly fungicide.
The Impatiens balsamina plant aka Kamantigue (
Judel was part of a team of seven students, all from public schools, who represented the Philippines in the world's largest high school science research competition. Intel has been sponsoring this event since 1997 and is a partner of the country's Department of Education (DepEd) during the annual National Science Fair. "Intel commits to encouraging and helping students who show initiative, young people who at a young age are curious and keep asking questions. By providing affordable computing solutions and tools, we encourage the new generation to use technology to build that idea," Intel Philippines' Country Manager Calum Chisholm explains. Yvonne Flores, Intel's Corporate Affairs Manager added that "students like Judel are special because they are focusing on how to solve global issues and make this a better world for all of us." 

Approximately 1,600 Grades 9-12 students from more than 70 countries participated at this year's Intel ISEF, competing in 17 categories like biochemistry, computer science, medicine and health, physics and astronomy, etc. This year's grand winner is Ionut Alexandru Budisteanu, a 19-year old student from Romania who used artificial intelligence to create a low cost self-driving car. 

"One of my proudest moments!"
With the guidance of his award-winning research adviser Mervin Salmon and Engr. Gerson Dumpasan, administrator of the Special Science Curriculum of PCNHS, Judel presented his research to a panel of eight international judges, who threw thought-provoking questions at him for a good 15 minutes each. Intel provided Judel with consultants who helped him prepare for ISEF. TADECO also gave him access to their laboratory and other facilities so he can do the necessary tests for his Kamantigue fungicide. "It was an exciting and enriching experience for me. I especially liked the part where prominent people like Nobel laureates, NASA people and scientists spoke to us delegates and encouraged us to pursue our dreams," he shared to me. Panabo City Mayor Silvosa and the city council drafted a resolution for commendation and granted an award incentive for Judel, and recommended that he “patent” his work so as to guard the product of this research/labor. 
Ina-Tay with Judel's research adviser and the Science Program administrator of PCNHS
Our young scientist is now a college freshman taking up BS Medical Laboratory Science at San Pedro College. Congratulations Judel for bringing honor to your school, your town, our country. 

Now you students out there - shouldn't you give social network a break and get back to studying your lessons? Don't look at me, I have long earned my diploma. 

Judel and yours truly 
Wanna know more? Watch the video of Intel ISEF 2013 Team Philippines here.

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