Projects: SPISE

Program Description: Rationale and Goals

The annual Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) is an intensive four-week enrichment residential summer program for gifted Caribbean high-school students who are interested in studying and exploring careers in science and engineering. The goal is to help address the low numbers of Caribbean students pursuing advanced degrees in science and engineering, and to groom the next generation of science, engineering technology and business leaders in the Region. The CSF firmly believes that the next "Google" can be started here in the Caribbean by one of these students, and just one such company would supply all the able-bodied persons in one of our smaller countries with high-paying jobs.

TishIsaureLiamZackSorayah Tank.jpg Students who gain admission to SPISE are among the top scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in the Region. SPISE aims to nurture and support this kind of rare talent in our youth, and to encourage them to stay in the STEM disciplines and consider technology entrepreneurship as a career option so that opportunities for future technology job creation in the Region will not be lost. The Region needs to create more technology companies and more high-paying technology jobs that bring in foreign exchange so we do not fall further behind in the global economic race. Furthermore, since it appears that we are transferring this huge economic development responsibility to the next generation, it is imperative that we invest now in the preparation of these youngsters for the challenges ahead. A list of students by country who have participated in previous SPISE classes (2012 - 2015), their class photos, plus news and summaries of the activities of previous classes can be found in the SPISE Archives.

SPISE is one of CSF's initiatives with the long-term goal of helping to diversify the economies of the Region by stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship within the Region. The program is based at the CSF headquarters, which are located on the Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies. Key important partners of SPISE are the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, and the CXC.

SPISE Culture and Environment

SPISE is modeled after the well-known and highly successful MITES program at MIT ( for which Professor Cardinal Warde serves as the Faculty Director. Professor Warde also functions as the Faculty Director of SPISE. Dr. Dinah Sah, Senior Vice President of Neuroscience at Voyager Therapeutics, is the Director of SPISE.

SPISE strives for a balanced class of 50% girls and boys. SPISE students study university-level calculus, physics, biochemistry, entrepreneurship and humanities. In addition, they undertake hands-on, innovative experimental projects involving robotics, computer programming and electronics. The humanities (Caribbean Unity) and foreign language (Mandarin) courses are designed to sharpen the students' communication skills and to highlight the global connectedness of the world in which we live.

SPISE instructors include university professors and Dr. Tony Rossomando with students in Biochem Lab.jpg lecturers from the Region and the Diaspora, senior management professionals from leading biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. SPISE students are also exposed to and coached by role models from the Diaspora and the Region on career paths and choices, and after SPISE, assisted with their applications to universities and to internship opportunities in research centers in the Region and abroad. These instructors and role models bring unique expertise and perspectives to the students, as well as important networking connections.

SPISE is a learning environment in which students are trained to think critically and to develop analytical and logical problem-solving approaches in several disciplines. Rote learning is discouraged. The focus is on understanding the concepts and fundamental principles in each discipline, and to gain enough mastery to apply these fundamentals to find solutions to complex problems that have not been encountered before. Grades, though important, are not emphasized. Similarly, although arriving at the correct answer to a given problem is important, it is the analytical and logical thinking, the methodology and the problem-solving approach that are most highly valued, as getting these right will lead to correct answers every time. Students are judged on their self-improvement during the program.

SPISE provides a risk-free learning environment in which students are encouraged to have no fear, insecurity or hesitation in asking questions. That is, there is no penalty for statements such as "I do not know" or "I do not understand", and there is no such thing as a stupid question. Since there is no competition between students, students naturally help each other to learn and understand the material, and are continually encouraged to do so.

spise2.jpgTeamwork is yet another essential component of the SPISE experience, as all of the projects (robotics, electronics, computer programming, and entrepreneurship) require students to work in groups, and to design and fabricate modules, components and systems that will be showcased to the public at the end of the program.Each student participates in two of the project areas with the understanding that the project goal, and not individual egos, must take top priority. Furthermore, we teach efficient study habits and time-management skills, so that the students learn how to make the best use of their time. Such skills will be particularly useful for handling the heavy course and work load in university life and life in general. Thus, the students build self-confidence in their ability to be successful in a highly demanding academic environment. Elize-Erica Qilee Lauren.JPG

SPISE is NOT a summer camp. Students in the SPISE are intensively immersed in science, engineering, entrepreneurship, the humanities and Mandarin for all 4 weeks, and have about 5 hours of homework each night. No classes can be dropped, and students are expected to stay in the SPISE for the entire duration of the program. Each student is challenged just outside his/her comfort zone, and expected to give his/her best effort. The core courses (calculus, physics and biochemistry) have diagnostic exams at the beginning and the end of the program so that the Instructors can measure their teaching effectiveness as well as the improvement of each student. Teaching Assistants reside in the dormitories with the students so that assistance with coursework and general supervision are available 24/7 to the young students.

Consistent with the mission of the CSF to assist with the diversification of the economy of Caribbean countries, SPISE by design is more geared to assisting students interested in science and engineering than students interested in other disciplines such as medicine. Thus, while students interested in pursuing careers in medicine may apply, admissions preference will be given to students interested in science and engineering careers, all other factors being equal. As shown in the Table below, SPISE has served 66 students from 14 Caribbean territories since 2012.

SPISE Student Demographics 2012-2015.jpg

SPISE culminates on the last day of the program with student project presentations that are open to the public. For the robotics, electronics and computer programming projects, each team first gives an oral presentation of their hands-on project before demonstrating the workings of their project. Entrepreneurship is also showcased during the presentations in which student teams pitch their business plans to the audience for investment. At this final event, student teams also get to show off their skills with Mandarin before the public. Sponsors and parents are urged to attend and cheer for their students.

Here is a link to a video, filmed and produced by Lillie Paquette and Andrei Ivanov of the MIT Sea Grant program that describes the SPISE: Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering 2012

Benefits of Attending SPISE

  • Build self-confidence in general and specifically in the STEM disciplines
  • Learn how to assimilate the fundamentals (vs rote learning), think critically and develop analytical and logical problem-solving approaches in various disciplines
  • Participate in a hands-on engineering project as part of a team
  • Learn the value of teamwork and to be a team player
  • Learn the essentials of making a business plan, and how to pitch it to investors
  • Improve study habits and time management skills
  • Get a taste of the pace and pressure of university life and become better prepared for it
  • Meet experts in various science and engineering fields who can act as role models and give career guidance
  • Learn about STEM-based career options that you may have never considered before
  • Become eligible for STEM internships in the Region, U.S. and Canada
  • Receive help with the U.S. university application process and financial aid strategies
  • Learn how to write a CV that is an effective and compelling representation of you
  • Acquire new friends, increase your social network across the Caribbean, and create networking opportunities that may be beneficial in the future
  • Learn more about neighboring islands through fellow participants
  • Gain the experience of living away from home and being responsible for self

We often say to our SPISE students: "continue to seize those STEM opportunities that place you just outside your comfort zone, and you will find your path to success." Students who complete the SPISE attend some of the best science and engineering universities in the world. SPISE students are now attending top universities such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Florida Institute of Technology, Univ. North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Macalister College,Trent University, Univ. College London, St. Mary's University, and UWI.

We track the SPISE students into university and beyond, and we continually encourage them to stay immersed in stimulating, creative, innovative and entrepreneurial STEM research environments.

What students and parents have to say about SPISE

SPISE 2014 graduate:
"Overall, the SPISE Program was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Not only was it a fantastic educational opportunity, but it was also an experience that granted me with a chance to learn a bit more about myself and what I could achieve. The program pushed me to my limit and as a result, I was able to emerge with a greater confidence in ability to approach new problems and situations."
SPISE 2013 graduate:
"An amazing opportunity where I could acquire such valuable knowledge ...SPISE has caused me to grow, not only in academics, but as individual. ... I count the opportunity as a blessing and hope that other students will get the chance to experience SPISE."
SPISE 2012 graduate:
"I can attribute the present direction of my life to the CSF...'
'I genuinely believe that my experience there contributed greatly ... and certainly raised my academics
SPISE 2013 graduate:
"Attending SPISE has tremendously impacted my life and although almost two years have passed, my experience is still etched in my mind as though it occurred yesterday."
SPISE 2013 graduate:
"SPISE has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me and I hope it will also be a wakeup call for the other students in this program."
SPISE 2013 graduate:
"I have been selected for the 2014 Island Scholar Award ...I must say that attending SPISE really contributed to my achievement"
Parent of SPISE 2014 graduate:
"What the SPISE family, and it is a family, is doing for our young people personally and academically in the pursuit of excellence is unparalleled."
Parent of SPISE 2015 graduate:
"I am proud that he faced the challenge head on- he conquered some fears as well. This is truly an awesome program."
Parent of SPISE 2012 graduate:
"Thank you again for your nurturing. You will never know how those few weeks that summer served to make a talented boy, a focused young man."

Ms. Obe Joseph, the SPISE 2013 US-Embassy-for-Barbados-and-the-Eastern-Caribbean Scholar, was requested by her former high school, Convent High School, to write an approximately 1500 word piece on her experiences at SPISE 2013. Here it is:
My SPISE Experience - by Obe Joseph.pdf

SPISE 2016 Application Forms for Students,TAs and Instructors

Melissa-&-Orian_Controlling-Robot.jpgThe Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF) invites students who are passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), interested in pursuing STEM-based careers, and more than 16 but less than 18 years of age on July 1, to apply for the 2016 Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE). Applicants must have completed CSEC exams or equivalent in math and science subjects. Students living outside of Barbados must prove that they have valid passports at the time their application is submitted. Students from low-income households and girls are encouraged to apply. Please note that letters of recommendation, transcripts and essays are required.

The student application deadline is March 31, 2016, and SPISE 2016 runs from July 16 to August 13, 2016 in Barbados. Students will be notified of acceptance by May 1, 2016. In 2016, we anticipate that approximately 20 students will participate free of charge, owing to generous support from sponsors. Application forms can be found below.

The CSF also invites post graduate students who are proficient in and can tutor SPISE students in calculus, physics, biochemistry, entrepreneurship, robotics, electronics or computer programming to apply for Teaching Assistant positions. These positions are open until filled.

The CSF also has open positions for instructors in the following subjects: calculus, physics, biochemistry, entrepreneurship, robotics, electronics, computer programming, Caribbean history and Mandarin. A master's or Ph.D. degree is required. These positions are open until filled.


Before filling out an application, be sure to read the SPISE Program Description above, as well as the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below.


Students applying to the program will need to:

  • Fill out the application form below and provide all the materials requested within it. A WORD file (for electronic completion) is provided below.
  • Provide the appropriate requests for recommendations below to their: (a) School Principal or Guidance Counselor, (b) a current Math Teacher, and (c) a current Science Teacher.

SPISE 2016 Student Application Form.doc

Request for Recommendation GC or Principal.pdf

SPISE 2016 Request for Recommendation Science and Math Teachers.pdf

Applicants who move on to the second step of the admissions process may be asked to participate in an interview as part of the selection process.


Applications for SPISE Teaching Assistants (TAs) are provided below in WORD format. The TA positions are open until filled. TAs are expected to be familiar with the details of the program, and, therefore, before applying, should read:(a) the Program Description, (b) the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) above, and (c) "What SPISE Teaching Assistants should know" (at the end of the application form).

SPISE 2016 TA Application Form.doc


Applications for SPISE Instructors are provided below. The Instructor positions are open until filled. Instructors are expected to be familiar with the details of the program, and, therefore, before applying, should read: (a) the Program Description, (b) the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) above, and (c) "What SPISE Instructors should know" (at the end of the application form).

SPISE 2016 Instructor Application Form.doc


Sponsors from as many different countries as possible are invited to join in support of the program. Sponsors may opt to designate support for students from specific countries. Each student is branded as a scholar of their sponsor. The cost per student is US$ 6,000 plus round-trip airfare between the student's country and Barbados. The US$ 6,000 covers student housing, meals, stipends for the instructors and teaching assistants, and partial costs of lab equipment and supplies. The CSF supplies the sponsors with interim and final updates on the performance of their students and assists the sponsor by providing reports, photos and other materials to showcase their corporate social responsibility.

SPISE Sponsors To Date

The CSF expresses its gratitude to each and every one of its SPISE sponsors and partners, for both cash and in-kind donations, since the inception of the program. The complete list of SPISE sponsors by year from 2012 to present can be viewed here

Student Selection Process

1.   Applications are first triaged for noncompliance with the eligibility criteria stated above in this SPISE Program Description (age, citizenship, missing application items such as letters of recommendation, essays, etc).

2.   Applications meeting the eligibility criteria are then sent off to reviewers (about 30 in total) residing in the Caribbean Region and the Diaspora.  These individuals are typically university professors and lecturers, and business professionals.

3.   Reviewers are briefed by the CSF Director or the CSF Assistant Director and given written guidelines as to the characteristics that the CSF is looking for in the ideal SPISE student. Reviewers are asked to rank the candidates on a scale of 1 to 4 using the guidelines and the criteria in the SPISE Program Description above.

4.   Reviewers are not allowed to review applications from students in their country, or students who they know, or students whose parents they know. In short, we do not allow parents, schools or even sponsors to be involved in choosing SPISE students for admission to the program.

5.   Using the above criteria as a guide, the reviewers are divided into subcommittees of about 3-6 persons each, with each subcommittee reading the same set of applications.  That is, each student is scored by at least 3 different reviewers.

6.   Each subcommittee is asked to collaborate and recommend a roughly 50/50 mix of boys and girls and to arrive at a consensus of their top 4 candidates.

7.   Using the list of top-ranked students provided by the subcommittees, students are then matched with sponsors from their country, and admitted to the SPISE.  Each admitted student is branded as the scholar of his/her sponsor.

8.   Students recommended for admission who do not yet have sponsors are wait-listed pending sponsorship.

9.   If there are too many sponsors from a particular country, the CSF will request that a sponsor(s) consider supporting a student from a different country.

10.   The exact size of the final SPISE class depends on how many sponsors commit to support before the SPISE starts.

SPISE Brochures

A. Print Version
For the CSF Country Representatives and others wishing to help us advertise the SPISE program, here is the print version of the SPISE Brochure. This three-panel print version is designed for double side printing on letter-size paper followed by two folds to convert it to a hard copy of the brochure. Please feel free to print and distribute as many copies as you need. We thank you for your efforts!

B. Screen-friendly Version
This screen-friendly version of the SPISE brochure contains the same information as the above print version, except that the panels are in the normal order.

Further Information

Please contact Prof. Cardinal Warde ( or 1-617-699-1281) with your questions about the program and about student sponsorship. Also, please be sure to read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) above for further details.


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