Program Overview, Rationale and Goals
Each summer, the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF) offers the Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) to Caribbean high-school students, 16 to 17 years of age, who are gifted in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and interested in studying and exploring careers in these disciplines. SPISE is an intensive four-week residential summer program, and is a clone of the well-known MITES program at MIT.
This program is one of the initiatives of the CSF with the long-term goal of helping to diversify the economies of the Region and raise the standard of living of the people by stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship within the Region. The shorter-term goal of SPISE 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 this smaller elite group has the greatest probability of producing the Region’s first “Bill Gates” or “Steve Jobs” or the first Nobel laureate in science. Additionally, the CSF firmly believes that by empowering our youth, the “next Google” could be created in the Caribbean and just one such company could supply all the able-bodied persons in one of our smaller countries with high-paying jobs.
SPISE is held on the Barbados (Cave Hill) campus of the University of the West Indies, where the CSF is headquartered. Key important partners of SPISE are the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill Campus, and the CXC.Key partners of the CSF are the Barbados Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
Students in SPISE
Students who gain admission to SPISE are among the top scholars in STEM in the Region. The typical student who is admitted to SPISE has earned 10 or more Grade 1’s in CSEC subjects, and has superb letters of recommendation from their Principal, and science and math teachers. SPISE aims to nurture and support this kind of rare talent in Caribbean youth, and to encourage them to stay in the STEM disciplines and consider technology entrepreneurship as a career option, which has the potential to create future technology jobs in the Region. Such technology companies and their associated higher-paying jobs have the potential to bring in foreign exchange so that the Region does not fall further behind in the global economic race. Since this huge responsibility for economic development is being transferred to the next generation, it is imperative that significant investments be made in preparing these students for the challenges ahead.
SPISE students are totally immersed (24/7) in university-level calculus, physics, biochemistry, entrepreneurship, and Mandarin and/or Caribbean unity, as well as hands-on projects in computer programming, robotics and/or electronics/renewable energy. Students are exposed to the rigor, pace and pressure of taking multiple subjects with major parallel homework assignments at the level of first year in a university. SPISE discourages rote learning and instead teaches students how to focus on understanding and applying the fundamentals so as to achieve mastery of the material, and thus be able to solve complex problems. The value of teamwork (learned in the hands-on projects) is yet another essential skill that is emphasized, along with proactive time-management skills. SPISE instructors include university professors from the Caribbean and the Diaspora (including MIT), and senior management professionals from leading biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the Diaspora. The program culminates with student project competitions in which each team first gives an oral presentation of their hands-on project before demonstrating the workings of their project to the public.
Student Selection Process
- Applications are first triaged for compliance with the eligibility criteria stated above in this SPISE Program Description (age, citizenship, complete set of application items such as 3 letters of recommendation, essays, transcripts etc).
- 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.
- Reviewers are not allowed to review applications from students in their country, or students whom they know, or students whose parents they know.
- 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.
- Reviewers are briefed by the CSF Executive 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.
- 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 approximately 4 candidates.
- The top-ranked 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.
- Students recommended for admission who do not yet have sponsors are wait-listed pending sponsorship.
- 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.
- The exact size of the final SPISE class depends on how many students have committed sponsorship before the SPISE starts.
Admitted SPISE Students by Country
To date, 109 students have been served by SPISE since its inception in 2012. A list of students by country who have participated in SPISE to-date (2012 – 2017) is shown below.
SPISE Students by Country 2012-2017
SPISE students are enrolled or have attended at many prestigious universities, including those listed below and others, with excellent financial aid packages:
Fall 2018 will see additional SPISE students enrolling at prestigious universities as follows: 2 more at MIT, 1 more at Stanford, 1 more at Harvard, 1 at Yale, 1 at Princeton, 1 at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1 at Georgia Tech, 1 at NYU, 2 more at the Univ. of Rochester, 1 at NJIT, 1 at Lehigh University, 1 at Iowa State, 1 more at Trent Univ., 1 at Bristol Univ.,1 at Univ. of St. Andrews, 1 at Univ. of Manchester and 2 more at Univ. of the West Indies. Most of these students have substantial financial aid packages, and some have full scholarships. This represents a tremendous early return on the investment provided by their SPISE sponsors.
For a video that showcases the true spirit of SPISE, including interviews with students, see the video of SPISE 2012, filmed and produced by Lillie Paquette and Andrei Ivanov of the MIT Sea Grant program: Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering 2012. For another video glimpse of SPISE, see the SPISE 2013 video, courtesy of the Bajan Reporter: US Embassy for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean visits SPISE 2013. Photos, news and summaries of the activities of previous SPISE classes can be found in the SPISE Archives at http://caribbeanscience.org/spise_archives/
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 expenses such as student housing, meals, stipends for the instructors and teaching assistants, and partial costs of lab equipment and supplies. The CSF provides the sponsors with summaries of the performance of their students, as well as reports, photos and other materials that are useful for showcasing the sponsors’ corporate social responsibility associated with supporting SPISE.
SPISE Sponsors To Date
The CSF is extremely grateful to all SPISE sponsors and partners for both cash and in-kind donations. SPISE would not have been possible without this generous support. Since the inception of the program in 2012, more than 100 corporate and individual sponsors and partners have contributed more than US$ 650,000 in total to SPISE. The complete list of SPISE sponsors by year from 2012 to present can be found here. A huge thank you from the CSF to our sponsors and partners for sharing in our vision to groom the next generation of science, engineering, technology and business leaders in the Region!
More About SPISE – Curriculum, Culture and Environment
SPISE is modeled after the well-known and highly successful MITES program at MIT ( http://oeop.mit.edu/programs/mites) for which Professor Cardinal Warde serves as the Faculty Director. Professor Warde is also the Faculty Director of SPISE. Dr. Dinah Sah, Chief Scientific Officer 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 Mandarin and/or Caribbean unity. In addition, they undertake hands-on, innovative experimental projects in computer programming, robotics and/or electronics/renewable energy. The 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 lecturers from the Region and the Diaspora (including MIT), and senior management professionals from leading biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
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 primarily on their degree of 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.
Teamwork is yet another essential component of the SPISE experience, as all of the projects (robotics, electronics/renewable energy, 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, efficient study habits and time-management skills are taught and emphasized, 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 beyond. Thus, the students build self-confidence in their ability to be successful in a highly demanding academic environment.
SPISE is NOT a typical summer camp and should not be thought of as such. Students in the SPISE are intensively immersed in their course work and hands-on projects 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.
In addition to classes, SPISE students attend several workshops and special seminars:
(A) Time management workshop – students learn how to prioritize assignments and projects effectively, and to plan and manage their time efficiently
(B) CV workshop – all students come away from SPISE with a polished and professional CV
(C) U.S. university application workshop – students are coached on the application process for U.S. universities including strategy, planning and execution, essential to maximize chances of success
(D) MIT and UWI-Cave Hill Admissions Office staff – students receive information about the undergraduate program and application process for MIT and UWI-Cave Hill respectively
(E) Career seminar series – students attend seminars from guest speakers who are successful professionals from the Diaspora and the Region, and discuss their academic and career paths with the students. These career seminars by role models expose the students to the broad range of careers and choices possible with a degree in STEM. Previous guest speakers have included: Professor Andrew Alleyne (Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, University of Illinois), Dr. Jeanese Badenock (Lecturer, Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, UWI-Cave Hill), Dr. Chelston Brathwaite (Director Emeritus, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture), Nicholas Brathwaite (founder and partner, Riverwood Capital), Professor Emeritus Jay Mandle (Department of Economics, Colgate University), Dr. Andrew Phillips (Head of Biological Computation Group, Microsoft UK), Dr. Dinah Sah (Chief Scientific Officer, Voyager Therapeutics), Professor Cardinal Warde (Department of Electrical Engineering, MIT), and Dr. Delisle Worrell (former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados).
The instructors and career seminar speakers bring unique expertise and perspectives to the students, as well as important networking connections.
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.
SPISE culminates at the end of the program with student project presentations that are open to the public. For the robotics, electronics/renewable energy and computer programming projects, each team first gives an oral presentation of their hands-on project before demonstrating the workings of their project to the audience. Entrepreneurship is also showcased, with each student team pitching their business plan to the audience and fielding diligence questions from their ‘investors’. Sponsors, parents and family are urged to attend and cheer for their students.
After SPISE, graduates are assisted with their applications to universities as well as internship opportunities at research centers in the Region and abroad. In addition, SPISE graduates are eligible for CADSTI-New England (http://cadsti-ne.org/) /CSF summer internships at biotech and high-tech companies in the Region, the US and Canada.
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 as listed in the Table above. 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
- The CSF offers SPISE each summer, free of cost for most students, to the most gifted (in STEM) high-school students, most of whom are from across the English-speaking Caribbean Region.
- SPISE is held on the Barbados campus of the UWI. SPISE 2018 will run from July 14 to August 12, 2017.
- SPISE applicants must be at least 16 years of age, but less than 18 on July 1, and have completed CXC exams or equivalent in math and science subjects.
- Students from low-income households and girls are encouraged to apply. The aim is a balanced class of 50% girls and boys.
- SPISE is 4 weeks of total immersion (24/7) in university-level calculus, physics, biochemistry, computer programming, entrepreneurship, Mandarin, Caribbean Unity, and hands-on projects in robotics and electronics/renewable energy.
- Instructors in SPISE are university professors from the Region and the Diaspora (including MIT). Some are senior management professionals from leading biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the Diaspora. These instructors bring unique expertise and perspectives to the students, as well as important networking connections.
- In SPISE, students are exposed to and coached by role models from the Diaspora and the Region on career paths and choices, and attend workshops on how to optimize their CVs and maximize their chances of success with US University applications.
- After SPISE, students are further assisted with their university application and financial aid packages. SPISE graduates are also eligible to apply to the CSF-CADSTI-NE Internship Program to carry out technology research at Companies and Universities in the Region and the US.
- The SPISE environment discourages rote learning, and teaches the students how to focus on understanding and applying the fundamentals so as to achieve mastery of the material. This empowers them to be able to tackle complex problems. Grades are not emphasized; mastery of the subject is.
- SPISE is not a summer camp and is not designed for the average student. SPISE students have classes 6 days per week and about 5 hours of homework each night. Individualized attention allows us to push each student just beyond his/her comfort zone.
- The value of teamwork (learned in the hands-on projects) is yet another essential skill that is emphasized, along with proactive time-management skills.
- Teaching Assistants reside in the dormitories with the students so that technical assistance and supervision are available 24/7 for the students.
- SPISE culminates with student project competitions in which each student team gives an oral presentation of their hands-on project before demonstrating the workings of their project. These final competitions are open to the public, and sponsors and parents are urged to attend and cheer for their students.
We are pleased to report that SPISE graduates from the 2012-2016 classes are now enrolled at some of the world’s top science and engineering universities as listed in the Table above. Most of these students have substantial financial aid packages, and some have full scholarships. This represents a tremendous early return on the investment provided by their SPISE sponsors.
Student Internship Program
The Student Internship Program was launched in 2014 by the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation-New England, Inc. (CADSTI-NE) in collaboration with the Caribbean Science Foundation for SPISE graduates up and through the bachelor’s degree. The internships are offered at U.S. biotech and high tech companies and laboratories, as well as at companies in the Caribbean. These internships are approximately 4 – 8 weeks in duration, and give the students first-hand working experience to see how Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are applied to research and development.
Specifically, the internships at companies provide an opportunity for students to:
- See the diverse career paths available in that industry
- Learn new laboratory techniques and skills
- Observe how equipment is operated, maintained, and controlled
- Network with individuals associated with that industry
- Observe the operations and infrastructure of a company
By immersing students in such an environment, CADSTI-NE and the CSF hope to increase the low numbers of Caribbean students pursuing advanced degrees in science and engineering. The long-term goal is to stimulate more technology-based entrepreneurship within the Caribbean, in order to help to diversify the economies of the region and raise the standard of living of the people.
Below are two documents that describe SPISE. Please feel free to distribute these either as hardcopy or electronically to colleagues, friends and family. Thank you for sharing in our vision and helping to spread the word about SPISE!
A. One Page Summary
SPISE One Page Summary.pdf
B. Print Version of SPISE Brochure
This three-panel print version of the SPISE Brochure is designed for double side printing on one sheet of letter-size paper followed by two folds to convert it to a hard copy of the brochure.
SPISE Brochure Three-Panel Print Version Feb2018
Please contact Prof. Cardinal Warde (firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-617-699-1281) – Faculty Director of SPISE, or Dr. Dinah Sah (email@example.com or 1-617-803-2135) – Director of SPISE, 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 about SPISE.