Students from approximately 30 secondary schools across the island will show off their innovations in robotics and vie for attractive prizes in the second staging of the ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge’.
The competition, organised by United States (US)-based, not-for-profit entity, FIRST, was launched on Thursday (February 13) at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) Sports Club, St. Andrew.
The objective is to encourage students to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators, and enhance their 21st century work-life skills.
State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge, in his remarks at the launch, lauded the organisers for nurturing innovation among the country’s youth.
“There can be no future, no growth, no prosperity without ensuring that the youth of Jamaica are empowered and educated in the STEM-related fields. The robotics competition is good because they are putting theory into practice in terms of what they have learned in school. It provides a more practical approach to learning these subjects, because they are developing robots,” he said.
Tournament Director, Gavin Samuels, saidthat the focus of this year’s competition has been expanded to include more schools from rural areas and greater female participation.
“We have five all-girl teams and we are up to seven schools from outside of Kingston and St. Andrew that are joining,” he said.
“We are working hard to ensure that they get access to this kind of training and that they are participating in this type of programme that may end up changing the trajectory of their future. They may end up doing something that is more STEM-focused, and these are generally higher paying careers,” he noted.
Mr. Samuels said that in addition to the STEM skills, the programme also introduces participants to other critical life skills, which can be translated to a number of technical fields and careers. These include collaboration, making professional presentations, fundraising, and drafting technical documents.
The FIRST Tech Challenge will be held from February 28 to 29 at the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, Jamaica College in St. Andrew. Teams will be challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a floor game.
The winning team will represent Jamaica at the FIRST World Championships to be held from April 15 to 18 in Houston, Texas, while the second-place team will compete in the Maryland Tech Invitationalfrom June 19 to 21.
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