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  • Young Balinese scientists shine in national contests

Young Balinese scientists shine in national contests

SINGARAJA, North Bali (JP): Fourteen-year-old I Komang Adi Aswantara fromthe small town of Singaraja startled judges at the National Youth Science Contest in Jakarta with his simple yet brilliant scientific project -- a tool to control sea erosion.

In front of noted scholars such as Andi Hakim Nasution, a professor at the Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB), Komang eloquently explained how thetool works.

The tool is a one-by-one meter corrugated iron wall that is placed at a 30 degree angle along coastal areas.

Unlike stone walls which are easily worn away by the sea waves, iron is resistant to the water.

Komang thought this metal wall was much more effective in preventing sea water from eroding the coastal areas, as compared to the existing stone walls.

He boldly explained his finding before the judges, who were moved to select him as the winner of the contest.

"It was a three-month trial-and-error experiment. I kept making improvement here and there to create this effective equipment," said the shy Komang while showing his creation at his school's library.

The third-year student at SMP 1 junior high school spends his time after school at Kampung Tinggi village, formerly Singaraja sea harbor, watching the waves in the sea.

He noticed that the present sea erosion control project along Singaraja beach was not working very well.

Driven by curiosity, Komang set out to create a better system. With the support of his parents, friends and teachers, Komang took part in the contest, held last August by the Ministry of National Education in cooperation with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

"I never thought that my project would impress the jury. I was so nervousbecause all the participants were very clever and creative," Komang said recently at his school in Singaraja.

Komang said he was very happy to receive a computer as part of his prize for winning. "I am able to learn how to use the computer, to surf the Internet and play various computer games," Komang said happily.

The youngest son of two teachers, he hopes to continue his studies in science.

"I want to become a great scientist like Albert Einstein," Komang said.

Professor Andi Hakim, who delivered the prize to Komang, was pleased to see so many young talents.

Gifted Scientists

"Indonesia needs so many other Komangs, to educate them to become gifted scientists," Andi commented.

The contest, held annually in conjunction with the Independence Day, is aimed mainly at encouraging young students to explore and experiment.

Sofar Silaen, head of the young scientist program at LIPI, said that suchcontests provided a forum for the youth to showcase their ideas and to testtheir writing and communication skills.

"If we want to build an intellectual society, we should start in the early years," said Sofar.

He also said that this year's contest was dominated by participants from outside Jakarta.

"This year's contest belonged to Bali. Both of the winners from the contests organized by LIPI and Mendiknas were students from Singaraja," Sofar said.

The winner of LIPI's science contest in August 2000 was Ni Nyoman Metri Agustini, 15, a student at SMAN I high school in Singaraja.

Metri conducted research on banana fibers and developed the fibers as textile and handicraft materials.

"The jury included Dr. Pratiwi Sudharmono, Indonesia's astronaut candidate, and many other prominent figures. I felt so pessimistic," said Metri, who was accompanied at the interview by her school principal I Made Sudjana.

Before the interview, Metri presented her findings to small-scale entrepreneurs in Singaraja.

"Bali has abundant banana trees. We can use banana fiber for various purposes and create high-quality and export-oriented shoes, handicrafts andtextiles to give more value-added and financial benefit to local artisans,"said Metri.

In l999, Metri also grabbed second place at LIPI's science contest, when she was still in junior high school.

"My mother, who is a teacher here, always encourages me to explore more subjects," said Metri, who dreams of becoming a doctor.

The principal said he was very proud of his students's academic achievements.

The principal also said the school boasted some other fine budding academics. One of these students, Putu Wardika, will represent Indonesia atthe International Mathematics Olympics in the United States next month (November).

"Singaraja has so many promising young scientists, but we don't have the facilities or money to fully support their enthusiasm," Sudjana said.

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