Friday, March 17, 2023

Annual checklist for drivers

Wazzup Pilipinas!?

New year, new me? Right. Sure. You do your thing. But while you may attempt to reinvent yourself with every change of the calendar, your car won’t be magically brand new come January. In fact, the older a car gets, the more you have to take extra effort and care when driving and maintaining it.

There are things on your car you should check on a regular basis, such as the lights, fuel, tire pressure, and so on. Then there are other aspects you will only need to inspect on a more long-term basis. Nevertheless, these things are still important to maintaining the current quality of your car. Here we’ve compiled a handy annual list you can check back on every year so you can keep your ride in good working order.

1) Registration

If you purchased your ride brand-new last year, great. No need to worry about this. Cars purchased brand-new are registered for three years after you drive away from the dealership. After that, you will need to renew your car’s registration every year. You will need to do it by a specific month, which is determined by the final digit of your car’s license plate. However, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has issued extensions for this since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, so you can also monitor the news for any updates for your specific schedule.

Oh, and while it’s not something you need to check annually, one registration-related thing you should always keep in mind is if your car falls under number coding on any given day. Your valid registration might be for naught if you get caught driving at the wrong time on the wrong day.

2) Tires

Depending on where and how you drive, your car’s tires will generally last you a couple of years. Still, it doesn’t hurt to do an annual inspection in case you need to change them earlier. The first thing you should check for is tread, a.k.a. the deep grooves that run down the length of your tires. While there are tools you can use to measure their depth, you can also use a simple coin. If you insert a coin and the outer edge doesn’t sink down into the grooves, then it might be time for a tire change.

Next, you want to inspect for any possible tears, rips, or punctures. Have a good look at all your tires to make sure they are still in good stead. Pay attention to the air pressure—if one tire is deflating faster than the others, then it’s a possible sign of some sort of puncture. And don’t forget to inspect your spare tire, too. You will be glad you did if one of the main tires suddenly goes flat.

You will also want to see if you are due for a tire rotation. This is when you change the tire placements around your car to better spread the wear evenly across each individual tire. Check out your car’s manual or ask a mechanic to learn how often you should be doing this.

3) Battery

This is another part of your car that usually lasts for a few years, but a periodic check certainly isn’t a bad thing. First, check to see that it is still holding charge properly. A simple battery tester can answer this question for you. Otherwise, you can check and see if the car struggles a bit to get started whenever you turn the ignition. Next, check that the leads and connectors are all clean, free of any debris, and plugged in properly.

4) Engine oil

Engine oil is to your car what blood is to the human body in that it runs across the entire thing, and lack of flow to any given area or changes in the quality of it can spell trouble. You should make checking the dipstick for quality and quantity a regular habit. But depending on how often you drive your car, you will need to change the oil at certain intervals. For advice on this, it’s best to check your car’s manual or consult a mechanic or service technician. Don’t forget to have the filter changed along with the oil, too.

5) Brakes

Having the engine and tires work well enough to propel you and your car is great, but it’s just as important to ensure that you have adequate stopping power at your disposal. Inspect the brakes anew thoroughly every year, covering the fluid, linings, rotors, pads, and shoes if your car runs on drum brakes. Replacing pads and shoes is a relatively simple and inexpensive process, and you should do so if you notice your car is stopping a bit later than before or if you hear any unusual sounds or squeaks emanating from the brakes.

6) Wiper blades

These should be replaced on a regular basis, particularly if you notice your wipers are not clearing up your windshield as effectively as before. Even if they are not visibly damaged, you should replace your blades at least once or twice a year. You will want to do this before the rainy season hits, too. Replacing these at home takes just a few minutes and usually doesn’t require any elaborate or expensive tools.

7) Cabin air filter

This is usually located somewhere within reach behind your car’s air-conditioning system. This thing ensures that the air passing through your car from the outside is clean once it goes inside the interior. Signs it needs replacing include reduced air circulation in the cabin, the A/C taking longer to heat or cool the car, a musty smell inside the car, and/or a whistling sound emanating from the A/C system. If you detect any of these signs, then it’s time you have the air filter checked and possibly replaced.

And there you have it. Check back on this list with every new year and your car should remain in serviceable order for years to come.

Got any more to add to our list?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

UP scientists celebrate art and science as tools for healing and growth

Wazzup Pilipinas!?

Science and art have always been intertwined, but the intersection between them has never been more important than at the crossroads of history.

The full video recording of “Intersections: How scientists use art to explore the world” can be found here:

With the struggles and changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh in mind, scientists from the University of the Philippines - Diliman College of Science (UPD-CS) came together last February to look back on the things that helped them move above and beyond the bleakness of the times. Not surprisingly, art was a common denominator.

On February 24, UPD-CS’ free public webinar entitled “Intersections: How scientists use art to explore the world” featured speakers who told their personal stories to an audience of hundreds of people, many of whom were still reeling from years of lockdowns.

The panel consisted of the Institute of Biology’s (IB) Dr. Joyce Ibana, who paints flower art and children’s art to advocate for health and Dr. Erika Marie Bascos, who started painting during the pandemic as a form of therapy; Institute of Chemistry’s Dr. Hiyas Junio, who explores natural dyes through chemistry; the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology’s Dr. Benjamin Vallejo Jr., who writes prose and poetry on natural history.

Synergism from integrating art, science, and innovation

Dr. Ibana shared her journey in the realms of science, art, and innovation. “My journey in science is relatively straightforward, unlike art which I find more chaotic and uncertain. There are many unknowns and human factors [in art], but this is when I was more in touch with my humanity.” She said innovation is a continuous iteration and prototyping process to improve things.

As a young girl, Dr. Ibana used to tag along with her parents, both educators in Daet, Camarines Norte. Seeing the chemicals and glassware in the school’s chemistry laboratory inspired her to become a chemist, which she proudly announced, to everyone’s surprise, during her graduation from Preparatory school. Even though she continued studying to become a scientist, her love for drawing and art remained in her blood, as she always illustrated models to explain her research.

Dr. Ibana’s study on Chlamydia trachomatis was used as the issue cover of the American journal “Infection and Immunity,” which she considered a significant milestone in her long journey as a scientist.

“What did you get out of this?” her mother asked her one day. “It was the most difficult question I’ve been asked in my whole journey as a scientist,” Dr. Ibana said. “My mother’s question prompted me to accept the invitation from the University of the Philippines to come home in 2013. Here, I found the joy of service in helping other younger generations of scientists realize their dream of becoming a scientist.”

The continuous pursuit of her research on Chlamydia trachomatis in the Philippines led Dr. Ibana to feel a strong desire to communicate the impact of science to humanity better. She painted flowers to express that Chlamydia is not a flower but a disease that can affect women and children. Some of her flower paintings were also included by an entrepreneur in one of their products. Dr. Ibana was fascinated with her ability to have something to give to the local industry.

“In science, our impact is based on citations. One of my most cited papers has 178 citations in about seven years. But when this one [art featured in products] happened, you give joy to many people, to 500 people [buyers of the products] in just three months. It’s very fascinating how art can impact people in a very small way,” Dr. Ibana said.

During the pandemic, Dr. Ibana created flowers and children's art to highlight the importance of holistic health. She created art featuring COVID-19 and immunology and art that narrates the challenges of being a Filipino scientist.

In her training as a university innovation fellow, Dr. Ibana learned that putting science and innovation together solves real-world problems. Adding art to the mix communicates the science behind the innovation and promotes the innovation to the world. “Putting the realms of art, science, and innovation together in a nurturing and enabling environment, I hypothesize, is what allows us to make a better social impact.”

Chemistry and colors in the context of local textiles

Dr. Junio’s extensive research on chemistry and natural dyes was a timely response to the surge in demand for natural dyes and textiles in the Philippines. In collaboration with the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI), she assesses the quality of the natural indigo dyes produced from the Philippine indigo (Indigofera tinctoria). “Dyes from the Indigofera tinctoria are all considered indigo, but they actually have different colors. Some are pink, purple, or yellow. But it has something to do with the chemistry when they produce the dye.”

According to Dr. Junio, the molecules of the indigo dye undergo different chemical processes that result in various indigo components, such as indigotin (the blue component), indirubin (the red component), and isoindigo (the yellow-orange component). When mixed, these components would form different shades of indigo. “We wanted to ensure that the ones [indigo] produced by the local community have a higher indigotin content than the indirubin and the isoindigo,” she added.

Dr. Junio’s research analyzes small molecules from different sources, such as marine and plant extracts. The extractions they use for natural dyes follow the procedure suggested by PTRI’s handbook. “The molecule is broken down into pieces, and from those pieces, we can identify the particular structure of the molecule by using a reference library,” she explained.

Her research on natural indigo dyes will help standardize the indigo dyes sold in the country. This will give the Philippines a competitive edge and the capability to sell indigo dye powders outside the country for economic gain.

Aside fromnatural indigo dyes, Dr. Junio also researched producing dyes from endemic Philippine plants, such as katmon (Dillenia philipinensis), mabolo (Diospyros discolor), Mindanao gum tree (Eucalyptus deglupta), makopa (Syzygium samarangense), and makopang-kalabaw (Syzygium malaccense).

Dr. Junio and her team plan to give the UP College of Fine Arts natural dyes, which the College can use for its artwork.

Healing using botanical art

Despite being constantly surrounded by botanical drawings through her Rafflesia research and by instructing students to draw plant specimens, Dr. Bascos had no experience with painting and the arts.

It all changed when her daughters asked her to paint with them during the pandemic. Her youngest daughter asked her to paint flowers. Dr. Bascos then posted her paintings on social media. She received a lot of positive feedback, which motivated her to resume painting. Eventually, Dr. Bascos fell in love with painting as it helped her deal with anxiety and depression.

“Painting gave me an hour of peace per day and it’s nice to know that even a chaotic mind is still capable of creating something pretty,” Dr. Bascos said. “I didn’t really care if what I was doing was right or not, the technique or whatsoever, I just painted all my anxieties away.”

At some point, people started asking her if they could buy or commission a particular artwork, but Dr. Bascos was having a lot of self-doubt about her painting skills. Then, she met Bing Famoso, founder of the Philippine Botanical Art Society and the Philippine Fauna Art Society. Famoso, who uses acrylic paint as her medium, asked her to teach her how to paint using watercolor. “Imagine, it’s the founder of all these art societies asking me if I could teach her how to paint using watercolor, and I felt validated. After talking with Ma’am Bing, I was confident to accept commissions or even sell my paintings,” Dr. Bascos narrated.

After a year of painting, Dr. Bascos was able to join an online botanical art exhibition hosted by the Philippine Botanical Art Society with her portrait of the Medinilla magnifica.

Even though Dr. Bascos studies the Raflessia species, it’s a flower she hasn’t tried painting yet. “I’m super intimidated by the Raflessia. I’m so scared that my painting will look like donuts.”

She advises people who want to try painting to just go for it. “Don’t be scared to try something different. I was in my mid-30s when I started painting. You’re never too old to try or learn something new,” Dr. Bascos advised. “If you want to go into botanical art, I suggest you use the actual plant specimen instead of photos because I feel that the colors are better if you see them in person.”

Perceiving creatures through literature

“One way to make [science] come alive is to put them in words,” said Dr. Vallejo as he showed a photo of a Sally Lightfoot crab, one of the species Nobel laureate John Steinbeck Jr. described in his travelogue, The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Dr. Vallejo opined that the environment provides material for writing prose; writers of natural history manuals even try to put their scientific observations into prose.

“This is the point about the arts, the humanities, and the sciences,” he explained. “They are ways of gaining knowledge about the world. Their approaches are rather different, but the impetus to do so is more or less the same.”

Dr. Vallejo also mentioned the works of marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson, whose books, such as Silent Spring influenced the global environmental movement. “We need science to improve, but the impetus to commit to improvement may be found in humanities with sciences in it,” he concluded. 

The full video recording of “Intersections: How scientists use art to explore the world” can be found here:

Written by Eunice Jean Patron, UPD-CS SciComm

DOST-SEI mobile lab makes science lessons exciting for Bulacan students

Wazzup Pilipinas?!

When the NuLab:STEM in Motion bus of the Department of Science and Technology - Science Education Institute arrived in the rural town of San Rafael, Bulacan last February 27, the students of Maronquillo National High School did not expect they were going to take off to an exciting and fun-filled science adventure.

Unlike the Science Explorer which visited them in 2015, the bright, yellow-colored bus is more spacious, mimicking a science laboratory set-up and is equipped with more interactive and state-of-the art facilities. It caters primarily to senior high school students with advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) modules focusing on science and technology careers facilitated by the country’s top scientists and experts.

In one session, students were amazed as they explored the unseen world of microbes. The module, discussed by University of the Philippines Diliman Assistant Professor Mark Tolentino, was an introduction to microbiology and allowed the students to use a microscope for the first time.

Caption: A Grade 11 student attentively observed the specimen under a microscope as they began their activity for the microbiology session.

Another STEM session enjoyed by the learners was the chemistry experiment about light and colors facilitated by Ms. Michelle Macalingmot of the Philippines Science High School. Using the provided colorimeter, students were able to identify the amount of light absorbed by the different given solutions.

Caption: A group of Grade 12 students pouring distilled water into the test tubes for their experiment during the chemistry session.

Meanwhile, the sky viewing and astronomy session by Mr. Lordnico Mendoza of DOST-PAGASA is a favorite among students and teachers as they got the chance to have a glimpse of the moon, planet Jupiter and different constellations through the telescopes installed by the NuLab team. Inside the bus, the students were also excited as they virtually traveled around the world and outer space using an astronomy software called Stellarium.

Caption: A student having a glimpse of the moon during the sky viewing held last February 27 at the school grounds of Maronquillo National High School.

Caption: Grade 11 and Grade 12 STEM students took a picture inside the NuLab bus after the astronomy session with Mr. Lordnico Mendoza.

Within the four-day visit of NuLab in Maronquillo, around 250 junior and senior high school students discovered their potential in STEM.

“Marami akong natutunan at higit sa lahat kami ay nag-enjoy sa mga activities. We are so grateful that you are willing to help students to become interested in science and for giving us the opportunity to be part of this program,” said Clariza Valderama, a Grade 11 student in the ABM strand who now considers taking a STEM related course in college.

Caption: Grade 10 students pose for a group photo with chemistry module facilitator Ms. Michelle Macalingmot outside the NuLab bus.

The NuLab bus was first launched in 2019 and aims to bring science closer to the youth, especially in rural areas. After a two-year pandemic hiatus, it went back again to the road in 2022 and since then, it has been traveling to schools in underserved areas to provide students with access to quality science education.

“Our goal is to extend our service to the grassroots level and ultimately, make our students choose science as an area of study when they reach college and later as a career. We hope that through this project, you’ll get to start a path in S&T,” shared Mr. Randolf Sasota, Officer-in-Charge of DOST-SEI Science Technology Manpower Education and Research Promotion Division.

Aside from the STEM sessions aboard the NuLab bus, students were also given an orientation on the various scholarships that DOST-SEI offers to incoming college students through the #Push4Science: Maging DOST scholar ka! Campaign.

Through the students’ experience inside the NuLab and #Push4Science campaign, DOST-SEI is hopeful that more students are inspired to be future engineers, scientists, inventors, and innovators who will help contribute to the country’s development.

“With the scholarships that the Institute is offering, we hope to develop and produce a world-class S&T human resource as this is an important component of our socio-economic development. As long as there are students who show interest and potential to become S&T professionals, DOST-SEI shall remain committed to provide them opportunities to reach their dreams,” DOST-SEI Director Dr. Josette Biyo said in a statement.

Caption: Students inside the bus also get an orientation on the undergraduate scholarships offered by DOST-SEI through the #Push4Science: Maging DOST Scholar Ka! Campaign.
The NuLab bus is scheduled to visit more public high schools in the Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Bohol in the succeeding months.
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