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Team Jamaica goes head-to-head with competitors in Dubai

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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A team of high school students will depart Jamaica for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in just over a week, to go head-to-head with more than 150 other teams from across the world at the third edition of the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 from October 24-27 at the Coca-Cola Arena.

The students, who make up Team Jamaica Robotics, were drawn from Alpha Academy, Immaculate Conception High School, Jamaica College, St George's College, and St Jago High School. They will arrive in Dubai on October 21 and will be accompanied by their coaches and a chaperone.

Coached by veteran Jamaica College old boys, the co-ed team trains at the robotics lab at Jamaica College.

In the inaugural competition in Washington DC, in 2017, team Jamaica placed 45th among more than 160 teams. The team also delivered an outstanding performance in Mexico City last year, to finish 15th among more than 150 teams, garnering a couple of awards along the way.

Coaches Gavin Samuels and Paul Pounall are confident that the team will be equally successful this year, a release from the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, DC, said.

According to the release, the tournament draws on the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering identified by National Academies of Engineering in the USA, the UK, and China. The challenge for the 2019 staging of the competition is “Ocean Opportunities”, and will see teams competing and cooperating to clean the ocean of pollutants via processors.

FIRST Global Challenge is an annual international robotics challenge to ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youth across the world. Now in its third year, FIRST Global has once again invited one team from every nation to participate in an event that builds bridges between high school students with different backgrounds, languages, religions, and customs.

“Bringing these future STEM leaders together in an engaging and collaborative competition drives home the importance, excitement, and applicability of STEM education,” the release said.

According to the release, the participation of Team Jamaica Robotics is a project that the Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (USA), Inc (UJAA) has adopted and sponsored in partnership with the 54 member associations in the north-east USA.

UJAA, the release said, is responsible for organising, coordinating and managing the project, as well as interfacing with FIRST Global. Additionally, Jamaica's Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has provided substantial resources to assist with travel and housing. This support, the release continued, enabled three additional students from Calabar, Immaculate and St Jago to travel as volunteer mentors.

Reflecting on the global competition, UJAA President Lesleyann Samuel, an engineer herself, shares the added benefit of this competition: “Aside from not knowing each other, they had language and cultural challenges and, in order to win, the students found ways to collaborate and cooperate for the greater good, connecting technology with terra firma. This experience can be life-changing, as we expose our children not only to the technical aspects of the challenge,” she said, “but also to the realities of what it takes to solve our global challenges. We cannot teach this in a classroom.”


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