Victor behind Vectors: The 3-D Instructional Apparatus for Vector Operations

When faced with the highest mountain or put in the lowest valley, this either breaks us or molds us. But it is written that gold is tried in the fire and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity, wise words echoing the impassioned and uncommon journey of Dr. Cecilia O. Bucayong, a Physics educator and a successful inventor who ventured from one island to another to pursue her passion and share it with the world.

Dr. Bucayong grew up wherein the way of life is destitute, and life is more complicated than it looks. She was raised in a household of ten. Their house was between rice fields, palm mangroves, and the sea. They are a family of 8, two boys and six girls, and among them, she was the fourth. Her mother was a kind-hearted woman, working hard and enduring to care and provide for them while her father was not around after being charged with murder and later imprisoned. Her father got bailed for a year and a half but was eventually detained during her high school and college years.

During those times with her father around, life was still a struggle; their income from fishing all went to pay the lawyerโ€™s fees for her fatherโ€™s case. They often had nothing to eat for a day, and if they had some rice, they would make it into porridge to suffice for the whole family. While other homes had a spoon and fork in their kitchen, they would use coconut leaves and make a spoon out of them. And after her father was put back in prison, it was twice the struggle for her; knowing their father was not around then, she had to weigh things out and look for ways to help provide for the family.

At such a young age, she learned net fishing, plowing, and working at the rice field on summer break for seven days a week. This became her source of income from elementary to high school and even college. She also learned to sickle palm mangroves for their vinegar at dawn and after school was over. She recalled that in grade four, she would sell a dozen coral fish tied on a hook together, house after house, for ten pesos each, but not a single fish was bought from her. The day was almost over, and she was left with a handful of coral fish nearing rot. The fear that her mother would scold her to no end was realized sooner, and it hurt her knowing how much they needed the money. She cried out and told herself that she would thrive in school and work hard to earn a profession so she would never have to sell fish again.

After what transpired during the fourth grade, her view towards life changed, giving birth to a vision and a goal. Consistently attending classes, she figured she could do well in her studies, and so when she arrived in 5th grade, she became the top student in their class. Motivated by these accomplishments, out of great determination to finish, she would swim from their island across the sea to go to school.

Eventually, times she spent studying using only a small kerosene lamp they called lamparilya; times when she would go to school with an empty stomach where she would just sleep during lunch break to ease out the hunger that she felt. Her thriving paid off when she graduated as valedictorian in elementary and high school. Her competent spirit proved her determination through her performance in class, and she became a consistent top student and later graduated as valedictorian of their class.  

By Godโ€™s grace, upon arriving in college, she was granted a scholarship for graduating as a valedictorian, so that she could fend for her needs with a 500 pesos stipend per month. Still, as a student,  it , was not enough; besides buying food and clothing, she would also get her school supplies from that amount of money. But this did not faze her. She looked for side jobs, washed dishes in school canteens, washed bedding for a bit of money, and tutored her classmates.

However, as a college student, a financial shortage was not her only problem. As an education student at that time, there were burdensome subject requirements. Among these subjects was Physics. This became a challenge for her, but also fueled her passion for teaching. Instead of dwelling on its difficulty, she took it upon herself to understand Physics, help the students appreciate the subject more, and have fun while learning from it.

Her passion for teaching was fueled by her compassion to help others, especially students, and her desire to make physics something appreciated and not intimidated by. So when she graduated from college, she immediately accepted the teaching job offered, in 1996, as a Physics educator at Claver National High School.

Eventually, in 1998, she married and moved to Bukidnon to settle down with her husband. And that same year, her sister-in-law told her of an opening at CMU, so she applied and was hired immediately.

In 2001, she took her masterโ€™s degree related to innovation. At that time, they were challenged to make something complicated, easier to comprehend, which she accepted head-on. She realized the problem was that teachers had difficulty presenting 3-D vector operations. Often, this topic would end up being skipped. She also knows the importance of that topic as vector representation is needed in studying velocity, acceleration, momentum, and electromagnetics, analyze crystal structures and formation, solid state physics, and quantum physics. This inspired her to create an innovation that would change how students study Physics. She made a prototype to teach how vectors are projected along the x, y, and z axes in three dimensionsโ€”the 3-Dimensional Instructional Apparatus for Vector Operations.

Upon presenting the prototype, her classmates were overwhelmed by the idea, and her study garnered a higher grade in science education. Then, from there, many commented, suggesting that she apply for a patent. It was the year 2004 when she went to Manila to apply. But when she got there, they did not entertain her right away because there was a process, and she would need a lawyer. The prototype, after it was presented in 2003, rested for 16 years, but in  2018, she attended a seminar called Patent Claim Drafting, and through this seminar, she was taught how to apply for a patent and what papers were needed. It was the year of revival, a signal was sent, and it was time for inventing again.

In 2022, with the help of the CMU IPTBM office, Dr. Bucayong filed her application for a patent and was only waiting for the certificate. She, and her husband, worked on finalizing the apparatus and polishing it. But the tricky part was looking for the perfect materials and carefully measuring each of its dimensions for the whole instrument to work perfectly.

Dr. Bucayong understands the limitations of the inventions before hers in ensuring the learning and complete understanding of the students on vector operations. It is up to the present innovation to present a 3-dimensional instructional tool to potentially enhance teachersโ€™ and studentsโ€™ efforts to teach and learn. Consequently, the students will be encouraged toward conceptual comprehension in the context of advanced computational topic areas like vector products.

That being said, after all, that had transpired and so many hardships in life that she faced, she did not stop at anything. Not even when her father forbade her to go to school, when she passed out due to hunger, when she struggled financially, no. When she was asked during an interview in LAUM of how she did not give up after all that she had experienced, she uttered, full of conviction;

โ€œI didn’t give up because I had no choice. There is no time to give up. And then I met the Lord. This is not the totality of life, and we’re all just passing by here. No problem remains a problem in the end. I did not fully understand then what salvation isโ€”that ‘you will be saved and Christ will save you.’ ‘You are saved by grace, and He is the way.โ€™ I still don’t understand much. But I believed those words. Because if life is really like this, we will all die, and then someone will offer eternal life. If you are really smart, then you really have to think about that. He said He is the Way, the truth, and the life; you have to discover it. Because it is hard for one who already suffered enough in this world to suffer even more when you die.โ€

This caught her attention and motivated her even more, to know if these things were true. Then one night, while reading the book of Galatians, God revealed His promises for her. She cried out, overwhelmed after knowing that there is salvation by grace alone and eternal life after. Since then, her outlook on life has changed. She was not just thriving to survive; she discovered that her life is precious and has a purpose. She later added, when asked about her principles in life;

โ€œEverything comes for a reason or that; it happens for a reason. Meaning if God allowed it to happen, there is a purpose. So, Iโ€˜m just living and obeying the will of God because Iโ€™m a believer. Iโ€™m a Christian.โ€

Though full of dreams and hope, Dr. Bucayongโ€™s heart was selfless and humble. She was full of gratitude to her King despite the times she was challenged on the battlefield where she was sent. She did not cower or run away but fought back through lifeโ€™s adversities. She fought with the kind of heart that her King gave herโ€”a heart of gold, a heart of a victor. [Rose Ann Q. Sulatorio]

Photos from Sci-App

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