>IPOH, MALAYSIA - For a few magical hours, over 90 primary school pupils and their teachers had the chance to play "rocket scientist" yesterday, with guidance from an aerospace engineer from a private university. It was the second day of the New Straits Times-Newspaper-in-Education Young Inventor's Workshop in Perak, and all they were provided with were empty plastic water bottles, plastic boards, some plasticine, cellophane tape and water.
Nevertheless, the water bottles soon became a fuselage, the boards became fins, the plasticine a ballast, and the water a necessary ingredient to provide preliminary thrust.
At the highlight of the workshop, the participants, who represented 24 schools, saw their "rockets" propelling a distance of up to 100m, from one end of SMK Gunung Rapat's field to the other.
"I've never tried all this before.
"Now I know how a rocket can fly," said Tang Chi Hoe, 11, of SK Cator Avenue.
Despite windy conditions, his group, dubbed "Birds of Paradise", won the top prize when their invention flew the furthest.
At the workshop yesterday, facilitator Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian, who was also an aerospace engineer at Universiti Kuala Lumpur's Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology and a finalist of the Angkasawan programme, explained environmental pollution and the need for renewable energy sources.
He also used simple gadgets to illustrate the use of kinetic, solar, wind and biomass energy to perform tasks such as lighting a bulb and moving a toy car.
The NST-NiE workshop, to be held in Sabah this weekend and Kuala Lumpur the following weekend, is to encourage participants from primary and secondary schools to create inventions which use renewable sources of energy.
"We want the students to have a feel of inventing through these workshops," said NST-NiE assistant manager K. Selvabalan.
It was also hoped that the workshop would encourage students to participate in the Shell-NST Young Inventor's Contest by sending their proposals on an original, workable and environmentally-friendly invention which could be used at home in everyday life, he said.
Proposals, to include an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the invention, may be sent to the "Young Inventor's Contest" at NiE Unit, 2nd Floor, Anjung Riong, Balai Berita, 31, Jalan Riong, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, or fax to 03-22822335 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.