Science and the Internet: the new normal for learning

In early 2019, I stumbled across a post on Reddit which explained the three-bladed design of wind turbines. It was titled: why did wind turbines have not one, or two, but three blades?

I thought the answer was brilliant: it had something to do with gyroscopic precession and reducing drag to maximise energy input. The idea that there was an explanation behind a fact that I took for granted resonated with me. I was so fascinated by it that I decided to write an article for Scientia, a school-based online platform where students could submit scientific materials, like essays and photos.

At the time, Scientia was still small; it was an initiative undertaken by some students to “encourage the whole community to understand the significance of science beyond the classroom, and to exploit their scientific curiosities in a platform that can be shared with others”. It only had four or five submissions when I entered my article, and has grown considerably since.

After joining Scientia and gaining rights to edit and upload articles to the site, I wrote two more articles (one about solar sailing and the other about spaghettification) with inspiration taken from a wide variety of sources. Two other friends also decided to take part in this scientific community, and collectively set goals for ourselves for the upcoming year. Our primary goal was to publish a physical copy of the articles. By this time, we had around thirty or so articles (with a few from other schools as well!) and we decided, as the Scientia team, to choose ten of our favourite articles. One stressful week later, we held the very first copy of “Best of Scientia”.

With most countries under lock down due to Covid-19, we thought this would be a good time to encourage independent research. It’s been a month since my school in Bangkok closed because of Covid-19. At first, all the students were ecstatic to have an early spring break; it was a much-needed relief from the stress of school, and all my classmates were looking forward to it. The day after, it felt luxurious to wake up and still not have to get dressed. It was fantastic to not have to take the train and walk home after online classes were done. It was terrific to have such an excessive amount of leisure time. But soon, the bliss of unexpected school closure wore off and instead, we were left with uncertainty and restlessness.

Especially for a Y12 student, missing an undetermined number of school days is difficult, as we aren’t given the luxury of having our exams cancelled and we have to work from home without the support from teachers to prepare for our senior year. Both teachers and students are beginning to worry about education, and whether online learning is effective enough to teach, in the worst case scenario, an entire syllabus.

What could I be doing? What is something productive that will help further my education? One aspect I find myself struggling with is finding the will to learn; it’s so much easier to actively engage in class when the teacher is present in person. So how do I make sure that academic interest doesn’t disappear?

For me, my answer was to proactively seek ways to stimulate curiosity; as a STEM-geared student, I found myself on science Reddit threads and odd engineering channels on YouTube. I’ve buried myself in books about outer space, genetic research and heart surgery. I found myself finding answers to questions I had never thought to ask. This method of casually stumbling across fascinating ideas and theories brought out an innate love for learning, for just knowing things. Scientia was a way for me to both learn and show others what my late-night internet deep-dives brought up, and I love being part of the group.

For 2020, one of our goals is to start receiving more international submissions, including from Bhutan, as we are a primarily Bangkok-based platform. While most submissions are articles, we also accept photography and poetry about science. As long as it’s scientific, Scientia will be more than happy to display it on our website. I’ve had a lot of fun finding theories and discovering things I had never thought about, and Scientia exists to provide this opportunity for high-school students everywhere.

Ever feel bored in quarantine? We’d be delighted to receive an article from students in Bhutan. The internet provides the same opportunities across countries and unites us in a way never imagined before.

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Contributed by

Sonam P. M. Okuda, 

Y12, Bangkok Patana School

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