“And this year’s diploma of excellence goes to … BANGLADESH!” said Ania Andersch, Manager, SJWP. These words changed our lives, forever and always. Looking back now, I am not surprised. Our journey together as a team was, and has always been, special.
Why? Let take it back to the start.
Early February, Arnab Chakraborty, Rituraj Das Gupta and I (Aniruddah Chowdhury), were searching haphazardly for any well-established international science competition to make our very last year in school one to remember. On came the platform “Bangladesh Stockholm Junior Water Prize 2017” – a national research competition based around solving issues relating to water. This competition would allow us, if we won, the opportunity to represent Bangladesh in the highly esteemed Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition, which was to be held in Stockholm, Sweden from August 26th till that 31st. We knew that this was the competition we were looking for all this time. And so we embarked on this amazing journey.
But this was never going to be easy. All along through the national rounds, we had to work overtime to barely make ends meet. All the while, in the midst of packed class schedules, we romanticized the build-up of homework and seemingly “lesser important” assignments. However, all the hard work did pay off as we booked that ticket to Stockholm, by becoming the winners of our national competition. Oh…the joy? Unparalleled.
After winning the nationals, we were put under a daily racking by our mentor Dr. Tanvir Ahmed, Associate Professor, Environmental Engineering, BUET. He was to prepare us for the bigger task ahead, and so he did by providing us with his wealth of experience, which ended up being the game-changer. Providing us with constructive criticism throughout, making us rediscover the Scientific Process, and amongst a horde of other things, teaching us to respect the very science behind proper research and analysis – something that he has engrained within us. Soon, we eventually prepared. Soon, we were ready.
Here I provided answers to some questions which House of Volunteers asked me to highlight the output of the competition.
How much have your skills improved because of SJWPBD?
In a word? A lot.
SJWPBD provides teenagers a platform like none other – the opportunity to represent Bangladesh in an international stage, amongst what many consider, the brightest young minds in the world in regards to water science and technology. It pushes you to learn something that is not taught in the regular school curriculum, which is, the art of writing a “thesis paper”. Yes, many students only come across this term when they complete their Master’s Degree, but here you are given that unique chance to hone the skills of writing a proper Thesis Paper. However, let’s not forget, it also pushes students to carry out proper, documented research. The latter is what stands out for me. Here you are not doing research for a stand – alone science fair. It has to be long term, it has be planned; continued effort and dedication is a must.
Was this event better than what you expected, worse than what you expected, or about what you expected?
Unexpectedly enough, the event was better than I expected. Can’t blame me for this, but I really did not expect much professionalism in this competition, having tasted some similar promises from other so called “Science Competitions”. But SJWPD truly did hold on to its promise of delivering proper guidance throughout the out-rounds and even held mentoring sessions while the competition was just in its infancy. Kudos to the team at HoVBD for holding that consistency, and also to the ever helpful mentors. Big things to come in the future for sure.
How well-structured was the event?
The event had several selection rounds. Me and my team felt that this gave us a proper pathway to progress into the latter rounds. Throughout the selection rounds you are given the chance to better your paper, have it be revised by the mentors at BUET, and re-submit. This lets everyone – even the most amateur of participants – get at least a glance at what is expected of them when it comes to writing a scientific thesis paper. It allows for mistakes, and room for improvement, so that what may not seem to be the best project becomes just that after a lot of grooming by the mentors. The competition structure is to thank for this.
Why do you think SJWPBD can play an important role in Water Agenda in Bangladesh?
Not many of us care to give a second thought about the water we use in our day to day basis. Whether it is for drinking, bathing, cooking, we do not care much as to think of how that water was delivered to us. However, this very safe water is a resource that might well be running out very soon. SJWPBD vectors in on just that. Besides the science, it also acts as an eye-opener to the very real problems that people in the world, especially in our country, face daily when it comes to finding “safe-to-use” water. This problem comes under the spotlight, and brilliantly so, through SJWPBD. More importantly however, it helps the youth of our country realize and solve these problems as best as they can.
Please mention the best moment occurred during the program?
The day we were announced as the national winners.
Nothing compares to that feeling. Hearing Dr. Tanvir Ahmed sir announce our name still gives me the chills to this day. The dream of representing your country at such a grand international arena, and having that dream realized… best feeling EVER!
How was your experience in Sweden?
Too much fun and learning for a week!
Stockholm was truly a mesmerizing city to visit. The art, the culture, the people, everything was as I hoped that it would be and even better. Learning about the city’s old town history has to be a major take away. Their old town is actually built upon a bed of sinking rock, so some of the buildings which were built on this rock are actually slanted or shorter than the others!
Besides that, I cannot say enough about our comrades in battle. We were a platoon who represented the best of 33 nations worldwide. Having to share a week with them was an experience like none other and getting to share a room with a Latvian and Italian – you can just imagine the breadth of conversations that followed during the nights!
Every second there was amazing. From the intellectual conversations with respected icons in the water world in the City Hall on the second day, to shaking hands and receiving the Diploma of Excellency from a Princess on the second to last day… we got more than we could ever ask for. Oh and yes, did I forget to tell you about the night before day we returned? We cycled through the chilly streets of the city through the entire night, got lost knowingly, saw a wedding by the riverside, and eventually found our way back to the hotel. We were on cloud 9 back then, and we were living a dream that we did not want to wake up from.
How can we ensure long-term impact in Bangladesh by organizing the competition?
Bangladesh is a country in desperate need in regards to water problems. Due to flooding we might have too much water, but not a single drop safe to drink. A lot of our aquifers in rural areas pump water either high in salinity or arsenic. We need our youth to realize these problems as best as possible, and incentivize them to take up work to solve these problems. And I believe that organizing this competition does just that. Showing the youth how fun and rewarding it can get to work in this field will give them that very incentive. SJWPBD not only challenges the youth to learn and solve water related issues, but that community that they breed through each term is what will stick, and this, eventually, is what will breed that generation of people who are informed about water, and care about water. This, I believe, always needs to be the end-goal, and this, is what SJWPBD will accomplish.
Are you interested in promoting this competition in Bangladesh? If so how?
Definitely. All three of us have this competition embedded deeply within us and we look very much forward to helping the future installments of this competition as best as we can. We hope to be able to put forward our experience during the mentoring sessions, put forward the techniques we have learnt while prepping for this competition, and as well as let future participants in on the things they can do to win in the final round internationally. I believe that winning the Diploma of Excellency gives us that ground to share such views, and we would absolutely be honored if SJWPBD gives us this opportunity.
Winning Team Member of SJWPBD 2017 and Best Excellence Award winner at SJWP 2017 (international Competition)