LAPASSION Manaus: An innovative educational project for Amazon sustainability
I am a person who was born in Brazil, in São Paulo, but went to Portugal very young, in 1978 at the age of 14, where I did my final studies in non-higher education, then the University and after that, a whole professional career in Higher Education since 1986, until I became Vice-President of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto (IPP) between 2010 and 2018. However, our best training is the one we obtained in our first years of life, and in that sense, I owe a lot to the Public Elementary School of Brazil. Being responsible for the Research and Innovation areas and, above all, for the Internationalization area of the IPP, made me feel that this would be an excellent opportunity to return part of everything that Brazil had given me. Thus, during the last decade, I have articulated a very strong relationship with the Federal Institutes of Brazil, this public capillary network that enters deep in Brazil, a network that has transformed Brazil.
The Amazon is a miracle of nature, something unique and huge, and the Federal Institute of Amazonas (IFAM) has been able to turn this huge Amazon into something fairer and closer to the heart. I visited Amazonas in 2015, invited by Rector Antônio Venâncio Castelo Branco, an excellent person who left us in the beginning of 2021 victim of a pandemic that was particularly unfair and severe for Amazonas. I wanted to recognize the importance of Brazil to me with something challenging, modifying, and after Rector Venâncio showed how the lives of people were being transformed, I understood that IFAM should have to be part of this big project. The opportunity came in 2017, when a call came up from projects in the program Capacity Building for Higher Education from the European Erasmus+ Programme. Together, with partners from Portugal, Spain, Finland, Chile and Uruguay we involved 5 Federal Institutes from Brazil, one from each region, with IFAM representing the North region of Brazil. CONIF, the council of all Federal Institutes network was involved as well. José Pinheiro Queiroz Neto was, at that time, Pro-Rector of IFAM, with the areas very close to mine, and he was the person who coordinated all the involvement of IFAM in the application for the Project. This is how the Project LAPASSION (Latin-America Practices and Soft Skills for an Innovation Oriented Network) came out, a dream of 15 institutions, including IFAM. LAPASSION consortium has as motivation to create a unique solution to address different problems affecting youth in Higher Education Institutions (HEI), helping students to obtain a better training in terms of innovation, soft skills, and internationalization. This solution was achieved by LAPASSION MP/I (Multidisciplinary Projects/Internships) for students’ teams to help them to co-create, and co-develop projects proposed by enterprises and other organizations, or to accelerate innovative ideas in an international context, involving students from several countries. MP/I are implemented by means of teams involving students with different backgrounds, different graduation levels, and from different countries, in order to solve challenges posed by enterprises and organizations. Around 1 million euros was allocated to LAPASSION consortium, namely, to support the mobility of students and professors. I am very proud to coordinate LAPASSION and to contribute to reduce a little bit the debt I have with Brazil.
In 2018 and 2019 we organized 4 editions of LAPASSION projects, one in Chile, one in Uruguay and two in Brazil (Uberaba – Minas Gerais, and São Luís - Maranhão). These projects designed to involve from 24 to 40 students in 4 to 6 teams during 10 presential weeks were so important to tune the methods and practices. But LAPASSION was conceived to be an onsite experience at all.
In 2020 4 editions of LAPASSION were expected, two of them started at the beginning of March, in Manaus and Goiania. LAPASSION@Manaus had started with the general challenge of Social-Environmental technologies for the Amazon Sustainability, with 31 students, including 2 from Polytechnic of Porto IPP - Portugal, 2 from Tampere University of Applied Sciences – TAMK - Finland, 2 from Duoc-UC Chile, 2 from Pontificia Catholic University of Chile, and several from Federal Institutes of Brazil (19 from Amazonas IFAM, 2 from Maranhão IFMA, 1 from Pará IFPA, and 2 from Amapá IFAP). Six students’ multidisciplinary teams started to work in the challenges for 10 weeks.
However, in addition to the challenge of finding solutions for the Sustainability of the Amazon, all project participants, Teachers and Students, had deal with an additional unexpected challenge. The worldwide covid-19 pandemic took place in Brazil as well, and in the third week of the project LAPASSION@Manaus was converted into an online project. I said that LAPASSION had been designed to be a face-to-face experience, I also referred the miracle the Amazon was, and we can say that to develop LAPASSION@Manaus to the end, in the tenth week, in this emergency situation, having arrived there with projects with the same level of quality as the previous editions of LAPASSION was a real miracle, but a miracle only possible due to the excellent work of the students and the IFAM Teachers and Staff who supported them during all the time. Everyone involved deserves to be congratulated for this success.
We usually say that LAPASSION follows a PBL model, but not a Problem-based Learning or Project-based Learning, but a Passion-based Learning. The students' passion for their projects is the secret to the success of LAPASSION. I do not remember watching any LAPASSION Demo Day, the day of the final presentations of the solutions to the challenges, without the tears of students and teachers. Tears that are a mixture of sadness for the end of a unique and impactful experience for each one, but also of joy for the new friendships that were made, for the world that was discovered and became closer, for the success and pride in the solutions found.
This book is a testimony of what LAPASSION@Manaus was, that breath-taking experience that transformed the lives of many students and teachers and that will certainly have a huge impact on the future of education at the Federal Institute of Amazonas and the other Federal Institutes of Brazil. Thank you all for making this possible and for sharing the experience in this excellent book.
Dr. Carlos Ramos
General Coordinator of LAPASSION Project
Instituto Politécnico do Porto / Portugal
- 2022-09-22 02:16:27
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