Funded by the U.S. State Department, the Lower Mekong Initiative and implementing partner Arizona State University have launched the LMI Young Scientist Exchange Program.
This year's theme is Water, Energy and Environmental Sustainability, and the host university for the four-week exchange is Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education. Over the course of a month, the program will deliver skill-building workshops, allowing participants to apply skills learned toward research initiatives and new technology development.
Week One: Water
Week one focuses on the regional challenges related to water and includes a 3-day trip to Can Tho and the Mekong Delta.
This site visit will showcase some projects and solutions related to irrigation for farming and bio-gas generation and includes a 2-day tour to explore the economy of the region: floating markets, production of goods using locally sourced materials, and more.
Young Scientists will have opportunities to interact with locals to understand their challenges and start thinking about possible solutions for an applied project.
Week Two: Energy and Researcher Academy
Week two focuses on energy and includes a research and publishing workshop. Regional experts will guide conversations related to renewable energies and participates will also draw on their own projects and experiences.
The schedule includes a workshop on research and publishing scientific articles delivered by Wiley and HCMUTE faculty with great publishing track records.
The week ends with site visits to two multinational companies in Vietnam: First Solar and Coca-Cola. The purpose of this visit is to understand what large multinational companies are doing to meet the energy demands in Southeast Asia, as well as learning what kind of workforce skills these companies are looking for in their employees.
Week Three: Sustainability and Innovation
Week three will focus on environmental sustainability issues surrounding the lower Mekong region and will include a Design Thinking workshop instructed by two facilitators from Thammasat University in Bangkok.
This workshop will introduce concepts on human-centered design to drive innovation through critical thinking, ideation, rapid prototyping and user feedback. By this week, the applied project teams should already be formed and a general project idea/topic should be selected. The week will end with a flight to Da Nang, where the fourth week will take place.
Week Four: Projects and Prototyping
Week four takes place in Da Nang and will focus on taking project ideas from planning to execution. We have partnered with Evergreen Labs, a social entrepreneurship consulting firm that develops projects that aim to impact the pressing environmental and social challenges in Vietnam.
Evergreen Labs will guide participants to refine their problem statement through field trips for inspiration and initial market validation. Participants will learn theory about market validation through literature and market research studies, which will then be applied directly to their projects. In addition, budget planning and methodology strategies will be taught.
Classes will take place at the ASU Makerspace in Da Nang, where the Young Scientists will have access to tools and materials for prototyping. The program will end with project team poster presentations.
Congratulations to Tran Nguyen Phuong Lan from Vietnam, Bundit Buddhahai from Thailand, and Chanreaksmey Taking from Cambodia. In their proposed project, the team will research rice husk ash, a highly abundant waste product in the Lower Mekong region, to synthesize Zeolites and develop a reusable composite material, for large-scale heavy metal ion removal in wastewater treatment processes.