Poli/USP professor, Roseli Lopes leads initiative to train young scientists in the country

Science and engineering fair (Febrace) wants to bring innovation concepts to elementary and high school students who have not yet reached university

Daughter of Portuguese people who immigrated to Brazil in the late 1950s and the first in her family to attend higher education, Roseli de Deus Lopes, 58, has already managed to mobilize more than 2,000 public and private schools across the country so that act in actions that arouse interest in science in young people aged 13 to 20 from public and private schools.

Formed by Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli/USP) in 1987 and three years later hired as a teacher, Roseli preaches the need to bring opportunities for scientific and technological initiation to basic education.

“It’s no use just attending classes and didactic labs; young people need to get to know research labs and do their technological and scientific initiation, because it’s an apprenticeship in which you face real problems and you have to look for a solution”, says she, who is a researcher at technologies applied to education and teacher of Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at Poli.

The challenge, explains Roseli, is to encourage students to develop projects and generate innovative and sustainable solutions in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Science and Engineering Fair

After completing her master’s and doctorate and learning about national and international experiences, Roseli created, in 2002, with support from USP, the Brazilian Science and Engineering Fair (Febrace), which she defines as “an ecosystem to enhance innovation in schools”.

Since 2003, she and a team of volunteers have invited elementary and high school students and technical courses from public and private schools to create and show their projects at the event, which takes place annually – and which this year was once again in person, after three years of virtual form due to the pandemic.

They need to develop a research plan, create a physical project (if applicable) and enroll in Febrace – projects must be created in groups of up to three students and a coordinator. 500 semifinalist projects are selected, which go through a team of evaluators who select 250 to be presented during the fair, which takes place in São Paulo in March.

This year, Febrace received 1,800 projects from students from 1,234 municipalities across the country. Last Friday, the best works were released, which received prizes such as trips abroad for exchange programs and participation in technology fairs.

The top prize goes to nine projects, and the students and professors responsible for them win tickets and stays to participate in the Regeneron International Fair (ISEF) in the United States. It is the biggest fair for students who haven’t reached university yet and brings together students from all over the world.

Knowledge and empowerment

“Children realize how science, technology and the search and generation of knowledge help in empowerment, because they look for solutions to the problems they face, it wasn’t the teacher who asked for a work on a topic just for them to get a grade”, he says. Roseli.

Travel to the USA is offered by the US Embassy and Consulates in Brazil. Among the winning projects this year is a low-cost ecological filter for water treatment, made from activated charcoal from the biomass of the black jurema, a common plant in the Northeast, developed by students from Pedra Branca (CE).

Another, created by students from Mossoró (RN), proposes a system for collecting and storing rainwater using low-cost materials. Another winner was a student from São Paulo who developed a study on school dropout and dehumanization in the light of Paulo Freire’s thinking.

little sponsorship

In 21 years, Febrace sent more than 180 projects from Brazilian students to ISEF, which won 62 awards, including international courses and electronic equipment.

Several students are invited to courses and internships, says Roseli. “We have cases of students who have patented their products and are creating startups to produce them, and students who are now in senior positions in large companies.”

She regrets that, unlike other countries, Febrace does not have sponsors with long-term contracts. Out there, similar events have been sponsored for 15 years. The only longer term that Febrace has is that of Petrobras, for three years. “Every year we have to go after those interested in investing in young scientists”.

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