The University of the Philippines (UP) takes pride in its students, passionately generating and sharing their ideas to address real-world problems and encouraging fellow scholars to thrive.
A UP Visayas 4th year student, Grand C. Gascon, was recognized as the only Chemical Engineering undergraduate and Filipino who became a finalist of Bayer’s International Youth Agriculture Summit. In an online interview this summer via Zoom, Grand shared his experiences and some lessons learned from the event.
Bayer’s biennial summit, held online from 2021 to March 2022, was sponsored by the Crop Science division of Bayer in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Babele. Resource speakers included UN FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and more than 20 experts worldwide. Its 100 youth delegates, aged 18-25, were selected from more than 2,000 applicants who submitted ideas for improving food security and sustainability in their communities. The students attended online training and business modeling classes during the past six months. Then they pitched their ideas, primarily scientific innovations, and social projects, until the top 10 and 2 wildcard finalists emerged, from which a panel of experts selected the three grand winners.
“More Light, More Yield” (Light Manipulation to Improve Plant Growth)
Gascon’s pitch was on controlling the amount of light that reaches plants to improve their growth. His experience using Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) and filters for photography served as the basis for this pitch. He thought that if camera filters could reduce the amount of sunlight that could reach the camera’s sensors, there are also ways to improve exposure to sunlight and apply these ideas to enhance plant growth and, ultimately, food production.
Gascon added different lenses and filters with a hydroponic setup for plants, with the right amount of water and nutrients can also be controlled.
Grand mentioned some insights on the process of the selection of finalists. He said their peers nominated them until the finalists were narrowed down to ten, plus the two wildcards. Then they had three minutes each to pitch their original ideas to the jury. The panel also asked them questions that they had to address.
He said he already had a lot of practice since he had been joining many student activities focused on creating and sharing ideas. Among these were: in student summits in UP and events sponsored by the US Mission to ASEAN in 2021; as founder and team administrator of the first-ever UP Visayas Shell Eco-marathon team in 2021; as 1st place winner in the Idea Generation at the Chemical Engineering Students Summit Philippines 2021 in UP Diliman; and, as 1st place winner in the Waste and Pollution: Challenging, Addressing, and Creative Solutions in the Asia Pacific, sponsored by the Asia Pacific Climate Project with The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana in Oct. 2021, among others.
Message to fellow students
Grand encouraged fellow students to look for the many events, training, and national and international opportunities offered by the University. “Always take the opportunity that you have now, even if it’s outside of your field of study, or even if it’s outside your comfort zone. You never know what experience you can get and who you will meet from that opportunity,” he said.
Gascon’s words of wisdom likewise apply to life outside the University. “Learn to improve yourself every single day. Correct your past mistakes and work hard, never to do them again. Forgive yourself for those mistakes and continuously struggle to begin again. Believe in yourself and believe in your capabilities.”
“Strive to let others know who you truly are. You don’t have to be the best. You must be unique,” concluded Gascon.