By Yeong Yi Heng (22S03J)
When you see the words “Water” and “Environment”, what do you think of? Lush greens and pristine river waters, or do you picture polluted oceans and disposal sites cluttered with waste? Raffles Water and Environment Sustainability Programme, or RWESP for short is not any run-of-the-mill environmental awareness club. Instead, it has a heavy focus on research for the betterment of water quality and the environment as a whole. Through RWESP, students are given the opportunity to learn, innovate and solve issues that have an impact on society whether in the heartlands or on the other side of the globe.
Ever wondered if the plastic bottles you discard daily can be re-purposed to be the next groundbreaking water filter? RWESP allows students to research their hypotheses to the full extent by providing the cutting-edge technology and facilities needed to do so.
Every Wednesday, RWESP members will meet at the OpenLab from 1pm to 3pm. Research goes as follows: students form teams of 2-3 based on their schedules to make coordination easier. Then, the freshly formed teams waste no time in brainstorming the potential topics and undergo intensive research on past studies related to the topic. At the same time, essential lab skills such as the operation of a micropipette are taught to students to equip them for their research process. Once the teams have decided on their research project, heaps of scholarly articles are studied to gain a better understanding of the results to expect and the experimental processes that are to be done.
After overcoming the multitudes of words and diagrams in the research articles, groups will come up with their research processes and embark on the fun part of the project – the experiments. During this phase of the project, students are expected to regularly visit the OpenLab at pre-planned times after their lessons to carry out the experiments together. Being able to apply all the lab techniques that were taught and checking off all those boxes at the end of the day makes this experimental phase the most satisfying and exhilarating part of the project. Though we may feel exhausted after hours of solution preparation, sample processing etc., the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day far outweighs the fatigue that comes with it.
Though the project may seem daunting at first, the process is spread across a comfortable length of time so that it is not too overbearing. Sessions are less frequent during exam periods to grant students sufficient time to study. Furthermore, there are many events and talks injected into the program across the year.
This year, all members participated in an international water research competition, Ignite, hosted by Xylem, a leading American water technology provider. This competition allows students to embark on a side project, to provide innovative solutions to real-world and hypothetical problems alike.
Competitions such as these will provide students with fresh opportunities to exercise their creativity, while potentially earning a cash prize if their project places within the top three. Additionally, the program does not hold back on hosting enriching talks about the environment and ecosystems to allow students to have a better grasp of the pressing issues around them.
Despite the evolving COVID-19 situation impacting our freedom to meet up and conduct the experiments in the lab, our teacher-mentors have been continuously guiding us and all groups managed to complete their research in the end. RWESP allows its students to make friends with and innovate with like-minded peers to make new discoveries and work towards a more sustainable world.
If you are intrigued by the above, If you are passionate about environmental issues while also having a knack for research, RWESP is definitely the enrichment programme for you! We welcome all :)