Oscar Contreras-Villarroel

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Oscar Contreras-Villarroel

Founder, Fundación Ciencia Joven (Youth Science Foundation) Chile
Oscar Contreras-Villarroel Hero Image

For a decade, Fundación Cienca Joven (FCJ) has worked to transform scientific education and train young leaders in Latin America to actively participate in society through hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

But what happens when in-person training gets interrupted in the face of a global pandemic? “You adapt,” says FCJ founder Oscar Contreras-Villarroel. With support from the Global Youth Resiliency Fund, Oscar and his team collaborated to deliver FCJ’s programs through a digital platform: SoWork.

 SoWork recreates physical spaces—laboratories, libraries, recreation rooms—online, facilitating interaction between students, teachers, and tutors in real time through video calls, chats, digital whiteboards, and private meetings. Inspired by online games, the platform is designed to be youth-friendly and interactive.

During 2021, FCJ reached over 730 students in 7 countries through the following programs delivered online:

  • Cienca Joven Academies—An annual after school program for students, ages 12 to 18, from vulnerable communities, who develop STEM and leadership skills and carry out a scientific, engineering, or entrepreneurship research project aimed at solving a local problem.
  • Academie Ciencia Joven—A program for students, ages 12 to 18, and teachers, who are interested in STEM education. Students participate in 8 monthly workshops focused on developing STEM and leadership skills.
  •  Academie Ciencia Joven en Casa—A program that develops STEM and leadership skills among young people, ages 12 to 18, from their homes. Delivered over six sessions, workshops cover the creation of science and engineering projects, culminating in a STEM exhibition, where teams present their project’s results to the community.
  •  Aldea Bayer Kimlu—A scientific camp where the next generation of young leaders in STEM develop the skills to make a positive impact on society. 

Leonel Giacobbe, a 17-year-old student from Argentina shared that his participation in the Science Academy allowed him, not only to develop an engineering project, but feel connected as part of a team. See more testimonials in this video.

Says Oscar, “The [GYRF] award allowed us to strengthen, virtualize, and innovate our programs in an agile way, allowing us to reach more countries in Latin America.” It also helped FCJ pursue new alliances, for example, in the area of climate science.

Learn more about Fundación Ciencia Joven here.