Students build robots for better access to community amenities


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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Creating technological devices is beyond the understanding of the average person. While we know how to operate them, many of us are clueless about how to make them.

A group of 29 students from several schools in Kingston and St Andrew recently participated in the Joy Town Community Development Foundation's inaugural four-day 'Social Integration Robotics Summer Camp', where they worked together to design, build and programme robots, which can assist residents in creating a better lifestyle.

The younger students, who were between 11 and 15 years old, were from Trench Town, Rose Town, 'Rema' and Arnett Gardens while the older ones, aged 16 to 21, were recruited with the assistance of AIM Educational Services from traditional high schools such as Campion, St Hugh's, Immaculate, and Jamaica College, as well as the University of the West Indies.

Kimroy Bailey, founder of the Kimroy Bailey Foundation and facilitator of the camp held at Ardenne High School, said pairing the young students with the older ones was dynamic. “This brought about a new level of maturity among the younger participants as the older students played the role of big brother and big sister, thereby eliminating any form of competitiveness,” he said.

He said on day two of the camp, there was a robot design competition and the students worked together in four groups to create the names and function of their entries. It was then that the students came up with robots to: collect water for their communities, protect them against crime, and better manage garbage collection.

“In the morning of day two, they were introduced to the three core components of a robot, such as the sensors (input); micro-controller (processing element) and actuators (output). And by that afternoon they were left to design and build the robots,” Bailey said.

He noted that on the third day, the students were exposed to the electronics of a robot and asked to bring that aspect to life, in readiness for showcasing their designs at the final exhibition on the last day of the camp on August 22.

“Unlike other areas of study where you are prepared for future application, with robotics the students were able to immediately see the co-relation between the theory and the practical. With such learning, students can go on to use the knowledge to earn as creators of computer programmes, using the internet, at an average fee of US$30 per hour. Robotics sounds complex, but is it a lot simpler than persons make it out to be. These youngsters can have a future in robotics and we are equipped to provide further training,” Kimroy said.

The idea of a Social Integration Educational Robotic Camp, which was sponsored by Ricky and Sandra Mahfood, Sterling Asset Management, McKenley and Associates and the Houston-based SHARE Women's Ministry, derived from Jamaican Dr Tony Sewell, who has successfully run similar projects in the UK.

“The local strategy was to bring together less privileged and less exposed students with more affluent students around a challenge in which there would be an exchange of strengths, skills and ideas as well as social interchange. The interaction was expected to provide STEM learning for all participants, engender mutual respect and perhaps start long-lasting acquaintances and even mentoring opportunities.

“In fact, we presented them with the Word and a message that it is important to understand ones worldview for truly successful living. Our plan is to repeat an expanded version of this camp annually and to establish a mentorship study programme between students from various schools throughout the school year,” said Major Richard Cooke, President of the Joy Town Community Development Foundation.

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