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Thursday, 29 December 2011 09:42

Gold Medal from INESPO

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Participating the International Olympiad

It was near the end of the 2009-2010year when we got totally inspired! We were invited to listen to the Gold and Bronze Medalists’ presentations on the Olympiad. After hearing them give an amazing talk, we decided it was definitely our turn to take part in the competition.

The first thing we needed was to find a project beneficial to Cambodia’s and the World’s environment.  We decided to ask for a project idea from our Chemistry teacher, Mr. Mustafa Dur.  He suggested a project aboutarsenic issuesin various parts of the world. Hearing the word “arsenic” for the first time, we didn’t have any clue what he was talking about. Yet after doing some research, we soon had a better understanding of arsenic and a suitable project idea!


However, we still felt unsure about the health impact arsenic has on Cambodia until we found an article entitled “The chemical element, ARSENIC, causes villagers a severe skin problem.” The study showed that arsenic is a toxic semi-metallic element that can be fatal to human health. Moreover, arsenic poisoning in drinking water has become one of the major environmental worries in many Asian countries including Cambodia.  In many parts of the world especially in developing countries, millions of people still suffer from the lack of access to safe drinking water.  Once we learned this we decided to focus our projecton the removal of arsenic from contaminated water in order to make water potable.

There are several methods that researchers and scientists apply to treat arsenic-contaminated water such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange and absorption on iron oxide or activated alumina.  Yet these methods are not affordable in rural communities of developing countries like Cambodia. Thus a small-scale and economical alternative is needed. One of the low-cost methods like simple filtration that includes the usage of slow-sand filter was found to be useful. With that basic clue we started to work on our first experimentation based on making a filtration tank. Since all projects must neverbe plagiarized, (which means copying another’s work is not permitted) we set an aim of building a modified filter tank. The setting up of the tank was quite simple but what we were concerned about was finding different kinds of material to build up effective layers for filtration. Our first attempt failed.  Yet after second and third attempts, the results turned out positive. We continued to replace the filter layers several more times in order to gain more experience and make improvements. During each test, we noted the steps we had taken and recorded the data of results. Confident with the reports, we began to write an abstract of the project and sent it with the application to the committee of the Olympiad. With help from Mr. Gurkan Cil, we were accepted as the contestants in INESPO!

You may wonder what INESPO is, so let us briefly explain that INESPO is the“International Environment Scientific Project Olympiad” which is held in the Netherlands annually.An organization, sponsored by the Cosmicus Foundation and the Globe Program attemptsto,“…bring communal consensus on social environmental values and eliminate environmental problems.”There are five categories for which students may apply:

  • Environment & Chemistry
  • Environment & Physics
  • Environment & Biology
  • Environment & Geography
  • Environment & Social/Civics

INESPO invites contestants from all over the world. The INESPO committee evaluated all the projects submitted by the students before the deadline in order to make a selection of finalists. The qualifying projects were invited to attend from 26th to 2nd of June 2011.

Back to our story -- A week after we applied, Mr. Gurkan told us that our project was approved! However, it didn’t mean that we could just sit and wait for the day of departure to come.  There were still many more things to do, including building a newly designed filter tank. We also needed to enhance the efficiency of our filter media as well. Therefore we had to research further on ways to remove arsenic from contaminated water. Finally, we came up with the idea of making a low-cost and effective absorbent. We combined the two new ideas together --  The clever innovation of a small-scale filter tank with an absorbent!



The last thing to do was sort all the materials and make sure that everything was properly packed. Our project would be entitled:“Water Decontamination Using a Biosand-Clay Sorbent Filter”.

The description of our project’s beginnings may seem lengthy, so let’s move to the interesting details of how we spent our time during the five days trip to the Netherlands.On 25th of June 2011, Sopor and Muy Houng, Marina, Borinea and our supervisor left Cambodia at 6:00am. We arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport at about 11:00pm and then we continued to the hotel reserved for INESPO contestants. The next day, we were free because it was a day for the arrivals of the international participants. The exhibition of the projects took two days.On the 27th of June, we woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards we took a bus to Utrecht University where the competition was to be held. When we arrived, each of us received a T-shirt, a name badge, and a bag which had the INESPO handbook and other small items in it. At about 10:00am the opening ceremony started and all of the contestants were warmly welcomed by the organization.

The official opening ceremony of INESPO ended at 12 o’clock.  Contestants and supervisors were served with a lunch box in the exhibitory hall. We had one hour to have lunch.  At one o’clock the exhibition of projects to the juries began. The contestants had to be ready at their stand, waiting for the jurists. Finalists were not allowed to leave their stand at any time. They would be given a zero score if the judges couldn’t find them at their booth.

That day we met six jurists. We had to provide all of the relevant details of our project and answer all the questions the jurists asked. The first day of judging ended at 5:00pm.  We returned to the hotel and had dinner there, exhausted.

The last judging day began on the 28th of June.  That day we didn’t meet any judges because the maximum number of judges that each group would meet was six.  However, we still had to be at our stand until the program came to anend. The judging day finally ended at 5:00pm. Afterwards, we left the exhibitory hall to go shopping with our supervisor. On the 29th, the organization prepared social activities for participants. All participants were divided into two groups, visiting different places. In the morning, our group went sightseeing in Amsterdam and visited the NEMO Scientific Museum. In the afternoon, we continued our trip to Rotterdam and took the cruise along the river.It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the trip, smelling the clean breeze and taking in the beautiful, green scenery. In the evening, we went to visit one of the universities in Rotterdam and ate dinner there.

On the early morning of June 30th, we went to visit the highest tower in Utrecht! The view was so amazing, we had to go shopping straight through to lunchtime!  After lunch, all of the contestants gathered at the hotel and took a bus to Utrecht University for The Awarding Ceremony.Special award winners were called to present on stage. Each of them received prizes and medals.

Awards given by INESPO were separated into different categories: General, Creativity, Scientific Thinking, Insight, and Presentation Skill. Honorable finalists got an Encouragement Award. There were Bronze, Silver and Gold medalists. There were also audience awards. Our group from Zaman received a Gold Medal Place Award and 500€!!!

After the ceremony, there was a farewell party at the hotel as the closing of INESPO 2011. Once everybody finished their dinner, the Deputy Major of Utrecht gave a final speech and wished everyone farewell. We got back to our room and prepared to return to Phnom Penh. The 1st of July was the departure day for participants.

A flight from the Netherlands to Cambodia is long.  We got so bored and exhausted.  Finally we arrived in Phnom Penh at 2:00pm on the 2nd of May. There was a warm welcome from Zaman School at the airport.

INESPO gave us a chance to see many new ideas from people of different nationalities. INESPO gathers young minds who love the Environment together in order to prepare a better tomorrow.

We would like to thankMr. Muhtor for giving us a nice welcome-back and all our friends for giving us flowers.  We would also like to say thanks to Mr. Mustafa Dur, our chemistry teacher and project supervisor, for providing us a topic and a bounty of information. He encouraged us from the first step we took to make a project until we successfully completed our research.

We are also thankful to Mr. Gurkan Cil, our Physics Teacher and Olympiad coordinator.  He introduced INESPO to us, helped us register and also helped with useful Physics knowledge on our Project.Yet it’s not only the two of them but also all the teachers who have taught us including our homeroom teacher.  Thanks to Ms. Sumeyra who took good care of us in the Netherlands.

Last but not least, we would like to give a special thanks to two people who are very important in our lives:  Our parents, for their devotion of time, money and strength, especially the continual encouragement to believe in ourselves. Finally, thanks ZIS for providing a challenging curriculum and a chance to join INESPO.

As a final message, we would like to encourage all ZIS students to take part in the Olympiad! The most important step to success is confidence as well as thewillingness to try something new; and never GIVE UP!!! This is whatthe Olympiad taught us andwe wish everyone GOOD LUCK!!!

Puthearothsopor Tan & Muy Houng Lim 12 E

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