The success of the Jamaica College (JC) robotics team in the recent FIRST Tech Robotics Championship is being hailed as a testament of the country's 'little but we tallawah' mantra.
The international contest, held in Houston, Texas, brought together 192 student robotics teams from around the world, who put their innovation, teamwork, and robotics skills to the test under the guidance of coaches and mentors.
Despite various challenges, the 12-member JC team showed their mettle, creating history by becoming the first team from Jamaica and the wider Caribbean to receive the MOTIVATE award.
The MOTIVATE award is presented to the team that best reflects a commitment to inspiring others and boosting the awareness of robotics within their communities.
One student received a badge for inspiring a judge while the entire team was exposed to scholarship and sponsorship opportunities to further advance their careers in the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) fields.
JC had won the FIRST Tech Challenge Jamaica Championships, which qualified the team to compete in the international competition.
Team Captain Zachery Ranglin said although other teams had better material "we showed them what it meant to be Jamaican".
Ojae James, who is the robotics designer for the team, said: "I believe that us going and getting that experience is key in leading our lower school, which will be succeeding us, to actually come back even better and win the Tech championships."
JC also won two of 11 qualifying matches during their judging room interview, where the team presented their engineering and outreach books while answering judges' questions at their booth.
Technical coach, Mickael Phillips, who assisted the boys to prepare for a 10-minute interview with judges, said it took a month between the regional and world championships to teach them how to be emotive and receptive to what would be asked.
"In those 10 minutes they talked about how they assisted and started other school robotics programmes, how they really brought robotics to not only corporate Jamaica but to school-based programmes around them as well as the less fortunate," he told JIS News.
Manager of the team, Jason Brown, said he is proud of the achievement of the youngsters. "What we would have wanted the young men to be, they are becoming, and they are honing their greatness," he said.
He told JIS News that the team welcomes any form of support.
"We've seen the potential that Jamaica has but we cannot do this by ourselves. Whatever it is that you can do to support, to engage, to build capacity here at JC, and in general, please give consideration to coming on board to making this happen," he urged.
Former state minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Alando Terrelonge, who visited JC's Old Hope Road campus to congratulate the boys, said the achievement of the boys shows what is possible with hard work and dedication.
"It's a strong signal to other young men that an educated mind is the greatest weapon they can wield," he said.
FIRST Tech Challenge requires students grades seven to 12 to design, build, programme, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.