The United Nations (UN) defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24, without prejudice to other definitions used by Member States in different societies of the world according to their culture.
Young people are best understood as a period of transition from dependency in childhood to independence in adulthood. That is why young people, as a category, are more flexible than other fixed age groups. However, age is the easiest way to define this category, especially with regard to education and employment, because the word “young” often refers to a person between the age of leaving compulsory education and finding their first job.
The first time the UN Secretary-General referred to the definition of youth was in 1981 in his report to the General Assembly on the International Year of Youth.
This report stated that it was a priority to assess the situation, needs and aspirations of youth in the Member States of the United Nations, as the analysis will allow the development and strengthening of policies and programs for youth, in the context of planning and integration among youth. their needs for the development of countries.
However, at 40, the definition of youth has evolved into Diego, 17, commenting on the official UNICEF website: “Being young means rediscovering your abilities and the world around you, being ready to face obstacles and always betting on the future you build yourself.” In other words, youth today is associated with innovation, work, development and movement.
How do we support young people on their way to innovation?
In an interview with Huella Verde, Dr. Jorge Quijada-Alarcón, a civil engineer and researcher in transport and land at the Technological University of Panama (UTP), expressed that “young people need places where they are allowed to show all the potential they have to generate ideas and embody them in research projects” .
“Young people need spaces where they are allowed to demonstrate all the potential they have to generate ideas and embody them in research projects.”
Dr. Jorge Quejada – halters,
Civil engineer and researcher in transport and land
Being a scientific researcher, Quejada Alarcón asserted that science is one of the most accessible tools for young people. In his view, “Unlike formal definitions of science and how it helps us generate knowledge through the scientific method, science gives us the opportunity to understand facts, provide solutions to problems, and make discoveries that allow us to improve our lives.”
Dr. Quejada-Alarcón emphasized that “Despite the fact that one can be born with an innate curiosity for our surroundings, being a scientist is something that is learned through practice, so that young people, while participating in research projects, not only gain knowledge about what they are achieving in it, but also about the essence and action of the research”
Panama has various funds that allow young people to obtain funding to carry out their scientific and research projects.
One initiative that supports young people in secondary schools is the “Young Scientists” program of the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (Senacyt).
This gives selected youth an economic fund to set up their science projects accompanied by a research mentor in Panama. This space culminates with the participation of young scientists in the Science Fair for Creative Events.
There is also the Scientific Initiation Symposium organized by UTP, which for Dr. Quejada-Alarcón is a place where various public and private universities, at the national level, encourage research among young university students. On this day, students develop a research project, propose a methodology, obtain results and form conclusions to a research problem.
This science start day allows hundreds of young people in the country to have direct contact with scientific research annually. This helps these generations understand the importance of science in solving the problems that plague us, and that the decisions that are made must be based on scientific evidence. Of course, for many young people it is the seed of the future as researchers.
“From my experience as a consultant for science start-up projects, I can say that young people need spaces in which they are allowed to demonstrate all the potential they have to generate ideas and embody them in research projects,” Quejada-Alarcón said.
This space, he said, “is like any event, sophistication and perfection, but his heart, on which the participation of youth is based, is without doubt his greatest strength”.
“It is essential to explore future competition for research funding for projects like these days, since many of these investigations would improve dramatically if they had the resources to do everything young people wanted to do when pitching their initial idea,” the researcher said.
To the questions: Do you think the country’s challenges can be met through science? why? What example can you give us? Dr. Quejada-Alarcón replied that “some of the problems we are currently facing have not been fully resolved, because many decisions made in Panama are not based on scientific evidence. With the pandemic, we have seen the need to turn to science to make the best decisions. A country that invests in research improves lives.” his countrymen.”
As an example of investment in research, Dr. Quejada-Alarcón noted that at scientific conferences such as the one mentioned, it has been observed that many projects use case studies from Panama, in addition to investigating various problems that respond to multiple facts. Thus, valuable scientific knowledge is generated on many topics. “If the decisions we make are based on this evidence, or even these investigations are expanded, this should help fill in the gaps in the country’s development.”
Panama requires young people to practice and publish science. This is why programs like “4D Guidance” for the dissemination of scientific knowledge promoted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Senacyt, the Knowledge City Foundation, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and the UAE Ministry of Environment. Panama (MiAmbiente) serves as a platform to promote the practice of science.
In addition, engaging young people in science to bridge knowledge gaps is very important, hence the advice that Dr. Quejada-Alarcón gives to participate each year in Science Pledge Days, because by joining in transformative experiences like this, young people become rich in their professional work. .
The author is a scientific researcher in water resources and a civil engineer. She is also a Doctor of Agronomy, specializing in Water Resources in Agriculture (Chile).