WHEN PUPILS at La Salle College entered this year's Joint School Science Exhibition (JSSE), even the headmaster did not know about it until the results were published on the school's Web site.
La Salle College is different from many other top schools in Hong Kong, explains Form Seven student Samson Chai Tsz-yui. The college tries to give students plenty of space to exercise their potential, and teachers are careful not to interfere too much.
Thus the La Salle JSSE team received very little support from the school compared with other schools.
However, Tsz-yui felt that what his team lacked was not his school's support, but experience.
It has been three years since the college last made it to the JSSE finals, and there were many things the La Salle finalists did not know, despite help from the Preparation Committee.
While the team set out to gain experience rather than to win, Tsz-yui says they nevertheless did well.
The boys' innovative idea for an 'Omnipotent Wheel' earned them third runner-up for the Outstanding Proposal Award. The wheel enables racing car drivers to change the tyre patterns on their wheels at the touch of a button, minimising the time lost during tyre changes.
Knowledge about racing and the science behind it were not the only things they gained. Close friends Tsz-yui, Patrick Chan Cheuk-ki, Jeffrey Lai Hong-jun and Tony Lui Chun-ming found after preparing for the JSSE they learned even more about each other.
For example, when there was a misunderstanding about one of the deadlines, the boys did not blame each other. They simply worked hard to overcome the problem.
Tsz-yui says he particularly enjoyed the opportunity to develop crisis-management skills.
The JSSE also gave the boys good training in time management, as they all had studies and other extra-curricular activities as well.
As chairman of the publication board for La Salle's student association, and a member of the school's Chinese debating team (who were champions in the Joint School Chinese Debating Competition), Tsz-yui had to fit these activities in with the JSSE project. The boys had to sacrifice some of their relaxation time, and even some of their study time.
'It has been worth it,' Tsz-yui reflects without hesitation. 'The JSSE has been one of my most memorable extra-curricular activities.'
Tsz-yui is interested in pursuing a career in science, and hopes to study chemical engineering in America before returning to work in Hong Kong or on the mainland.
He believes three great crises are looming: a food shortage, water pollution and air pollution, and that chemical engineering is one of the main industries where solutions for all these problems can be found.