Career & Education

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Jamaican primary school robotics team cops award on first showing at global championship

Sunday, March 04, 2018

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Jamaica's “Lego Yuh Mind - Makers”, a primary school robotics team, distinguished themselves from a field of 80 competitors to win the award for Elementary Team Excellence at the F.I.R.S.T LEGO League (FLL) Robotics Championships in Pittsburgh in the United States in January.

It was more than a dream come true for the 10- and 11-year-olds, who had travelled overseas and competed in a global robotics competition for the first time.

The annual FLL challenge requires each team to build and programme an autonomous robot, research a problem in their community and present a creative solution to the judges. Using this year's theme — Hydro Dynamics — the Jamaican students studied the human-water cycle and how it related to water pollution in the island.

Coached by Halls of Learning and sponsored by Musson and SEPROD foundations, the team comprises four girls and four boys from Allman Town, Calabar, Clan Carthy and North Street primary schools.

They were the top scorers from a group of 24 that underwent a two-hour test conducted by Halls of Learning, which included mathematics, logic, problem-solving and puzzle-based challenges. From November 2017 to January 2018, they did 60+ hours of preparatory sessions, during which each member performed various roles and responsibilities.

The activities were designed to develop leadership, teamwork and collaboration skills in and among the students, and taught them to respect each other, create new friendships, and leave with valuable life lessons.

The foundations explained that they targeted students from primary schools that had participated in their previous events such as Jamaican Girls Coding, Hour of Code, Scratch Day and Toy Inventor workshops, which all promote science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — an area referred to as STEAM.

“Special congratulations are in order for the Lego Yuh Mind - Makers, their families and the Halls of Learning coaching team. This programme has put these young children on a firm foundation for their future,” said Musson foundation chairperson Melanie Subratie.

“We strongly believe in supporting the development of Jamaica through education and continue to build on relationships with the schools,” she added.

Subratie stated further that the foundations collaborate with Halls of Learning — which they described as Jamaica's leading provider of STEM activities — to focus on innovative, hands-on learning experiences for children that promote playful exploration of STEAM.

Halls of Learning offers after-school robotics and coding clubs, summer camps and inner-city outreach.

“Having last taken a robotics team from Jones Town in 2005, it was great to be able to do this again with the support of a strategic partner and also to have former FLL participants Zachary Chen and Dylan Chin assisting with the coaching,” founder of Halls of Learning and FLL coach Marvin Hall said.

The Musson and SEPROD foundations committed over US$25,000 in financial support to make the team's trip a reality. A short film of the trip can be seen on the SEPROD Foundation YouTube channel.

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