Vietnamese students enter int'l youth contest finals

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An electronic education project has won two Vietnamese students a spot in the finals at a global youth creativity contest.

Known as the Connection Education Academy, or ConnEd Academy, the project aims to involve Vietnamese teachers, whether they are teaching locally or abroad, experts and social organizations in voluntarily preparing and presenting video-taped lessons in various fields that can be accessed by Vietnamese people across the globe via the Internet.

Project initiator Le Hai Long, a 22-year-old Vietnamese student from Gettysburg College, said the initiative could benefit Vietnamese people who can't access school or knowledge due to financial problems

Long said he first drafted plans for the project late last November after being inspired by videotaped lessons by Salman Khan, a financial expert from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He then joined hands with Le Thi Ngoc Giao, 21, who is studying at Singapore-based Management University in developing the idea for the first Challenge Future Competition, the finals of which take place in Slovenia May 14-19. The contest was founded by several European academic organizations.

With votes from the community and approval from judges, Long and Giao's Rainbow Team last month defeated over 540 projects from all over the world to compete with eight other teams at the finals in Bled.

The winners, picked by a combination of judges' and community votes, will be awarded 20,000 euros (US$26,578).

"If we win the contest, we'll spend all the money developing the project in our hometown My Tho Town [in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang] this summer," Giao said. Both Long and Giao studied at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Secondary School in My Tho before moving to Ho Chi Minh City to study at the city's High School for the Gifted.

"We will later rent an office in HCMC to spread the project to many other localities, especially rural areas," she said.

While awaiting the results, Long and Giao have already launched a website for their project at www.connedacademy.org, which, according to Giao, proved the feasibility of their project and gave them an edge over other teams.

"Even if we lose, we'll raise funds from our friends and sponsors to conduct the project in our hometown," she said.

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