How kid innovators can change the way we live for the better

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Eight-year-old Matthew Ryan Chong of MGC Christian Life Academy, joined by his dad Donny Ryan Chong, answers questions from Developmental Pediatrician Dr. Josie Eusebio and host Issa Litton. He won first prize in the Upcoming Kid Innovators category of the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators for his project “How to get rid of mosquitoes using technology.” The search is part of Wyeth Nutrition’s advocacy to promote a love for science in a country that needs more young scientists to shape Filipino innovations. Photo by KITKAT PAJARO

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Eight-year-old Matthew Ryan Chong disliked pests, especially mosquitoes. An inquisitive and dynamic child with a knack for technology and building things, he asked for the help of his father, Donny Ryan Chong, to help come up with a solution against being bitten by the nasty bugs.

What Matthew came up with is a simple yet effective relief that many of us should have thought of before: a roving mosquito killer of sorts, supported by a robot that Matthew built himself. Entitled “How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes Using Technology,” the project won him first prize in the upcoming kid innovators category in the 2017 Grand Finals of the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators.

Launched in 2015 in celebration of Wyeth Nutrition’s 100 years of advancing nutrition science, the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators is part of Wyeth Nutrition’s advocacy to promote a love for science in a country that needs more young scientists to shape Filipino innovations. “It’s a platform to showcase a kid’s potential for greatness, to showcase their love for science and their passion to make a difference,” says Anne Michelle Pador, Wyeth Nutrition’s communications head.

Wyeth Nutrition Kid.jpg Seven-year-old Keysha Vince Quirit, accompanied by her grandmother, explains to host Issa Litton how she came up with her project, “Pine Needles as a Substitute for Naphthalene Balls.” Quirit won second place in the Upcoming Kid Innovators category. Photo by KITKAT PAJARO

There were five finalists in the competition’s kid innovators category (comprised of children nine to 14 years old) and three finalists for the upcoming kid innovators category (comprised of children five to eight years old). The latter is a new category, encouraging younger children to explore scientific skills through a partnership with a teacher and parent. The aim is to make the search more inclusive.

“Hopefully, we will be able to inspire kids to become catalysts of change through science and innovation … We believe that the potential of kids for greatness is limitless with the support of their parents,” says Pador.

“You know everything starts with a little spark of an idea,” says Eugene David, Wyeth Nutrition’s president and general manager. “If even one of these kids would get to the level of achievement close to getting man on the moon or even leading a breakthrough solution to a long-standing societal problem, then we at Wyeth Nutrition would be happy and proud to have been part of the little spark that started it all.”

The array of innovations that made it to the Grand Finals addresses nutrition, health, and wellness, in line with Wyeth Nutrition’s vision to nurture a healthier generation of Filipinos. A group of students from Makati Science High School came up with a breakfast recommender — called “Pamahaw,” a Visayan word for breakfast — to optimize healthy food choices in school.

“Most of our schoolmates don’t have time to eat breakfast anymore,” says 14-year-old Joanne Gonzales, part of the team behind Pamahaw. “So they eat it in the canteen. Sometimes they don’t really put much thought into what they buy in the canteen … With Pamahaw, it helps them consider their nutrition requirements for breakfast.”

Another group, from Tinajeros National High School in Malabon, used chitosan and local calabash fruit to formulate a hydrogel burn dressing, a more affordable and safe alternative to conventional burn dressings. “[The purpose is] magkaroon po sana ng alternative na treatment sa burn kasi ‘yung mga dressings po, mahal na po,” says 13-year-old Roma De Zafra. “So ‘yung mga ingredients po all-natural products siya, kaya hindi siya expensive.”

Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators.jpg Adrian Serapio, Zander Sy, and Philmon Wee from Xavier High School demonstrate how to use “Mobifit," an app that uses a smartphone’s LED light to measure body fat. They won second place in the Kid Innovators category of the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators. Photo by KITKAT PAJARO

Evident in the innovations are the children’s focus on local and accessible materials and their ingenuity in using technology. Despite their young age, the breadth of knowledge the young finalists displayed was “awe inspiring,” says Pador. “Over the years, the kids' projects have been amazing. You will be surprised by the level of their awareness in community and society,” she adds.

Thirteen-year-old John Ronan Reyes, from Tabaco National High School in Albay, for example, analyzed how the Tibig (a local fruit bearing tree) may be used to reduce copper pollution in water. A group of students from Xavier School (Adrian Serapio, Zander Sy, and Philmon Wee), devised “Mobifit,” an app that uses a smartphone’s LED light to measure body fat. Another project by Vock Canlas, Nathan Elmido, and Giancarlo Albeos from Philippine Science High School in Central Visayas, explored the antibacterial properties of the mani-manian plant (a traditional herbal medicine) against E. coli and S. aureus.

The projects won third, second, and first place, respectively, and were judged by a group of educators and experts in science and technology. The children each pitched their science projects before the panel of judges, who quizzed them on the scientific processes and the potential behind their findings.

Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators.jpg Vock Canlas, Nathan Elmido, and Giancarlo Albeos from Philippine Science High School in Central Visayas, explored the antibacterial properties of the mani-manian plant (a traditional herbal medicine) against e.coli and s. aureus. Their project won them first place in the Kid Innovators category of the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators. Photo by KITKAT PAJARO

The projects would not have been possible without Wyeth Nutrition’s committed partnership with the children’s parents and teachers. More than a competition, the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators is part of a trifold effort involving not only proper nutrition, but also proper parenting and proper care. The goal is to mold the children holistically, in accordance with their inherent interests. “We know that kids are innately curious. So it’s really up to us, up to the parents, to nurture kids' curiosity, if we make them believe that there really is no box,” says Pador.

“For us, thinking out of the box is innovation. But with kids, they think as if there’s no box …  So if you need some inspiration, talk to a kid and surprise yourself with how kids are full of ideas,” she adds. “That is what continues to inspire us at Wyeth Nutrition. Kapag kausap mo sila, anything is possible.”

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The 2017 Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators concluded its third season with the Grand Finals on Oct. 10 at Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Pasay City. For details on how to join the next season of the Search for Wyeth Nutrition Kid Innovators, visit https://www.wyeth.com.ph/kidinnovators or e-mail kidinnovator@wyethnutrition.com.