12 Dec Alan – A Volunteer Whose Life Was Changed by Kids in Honduras
In early 2017 FIRST Global partnered with an organization called Shoulder to Shoulder, a nonprofit supporting health and education initiatives in Honduras, to send a team of Honduran youth to participate in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge.
“We’re introducing something down here that’s pretty novel,” said Paul Manship, one of the program’s directors, in an introductory video. “We’re fortunate if we can get from one place to another on a paved road, and yet what we’re doing with these young people is introducing technology, science, and math skills that are actually going to revolutionize their educational experience and open up doors for opportunities.”
The students of Team Honduras came from the remote villages of Camasca and Concepción in the Intibucá region of the mountains of the “Dry Frontier”. In this region, they receive water every other day and have only sporadic access to electricity. More than half the population of Honduras lives below the poverty line. Net enrollment rates in secondary school throughout the country were only about 45 percent in 2017, and a lack of resources available in public schools means education quality is often poor.
The students had no knowledge of coding or robotics, no access to replacement parts, and limited access to computers. Several of the team members had to walk an hour over mountainsides in the dark just to get to the school to help build the robot.
Yet they overcame these difficulties.
“These are kids that are constantly told that they have little value,” said Alan, a member of the GSC Advisor Team that mentored both the 2017 and 2018 teams in the building of their robots. “Many of the students told me that they wanted to show the world that the people of Camasca, Honduras are proud and strong.”
The students emphasized how they hoped to better their families and communities through the skills and experiences they gained. “We each have a role in working to make Honduras a better country,” said a student from the 2017 team.
The team had only a few months to build a robot from scratch with a kit of parts — a daunting task considering they had never done anything like it before. However, Team Honduras was paired up with Alan and his team, FRC Team #341 Miss Daisy. They communicated on a weekly basis, mostly via choppy Skype and Whatsapp conversations, and with their help, the students of Team Honduras created a competitive robot that held its own.
“These kids are some of the brightest, most appreciative, and gracious human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Alan said.
In 2017, the team ranked 40th out of 163 teams. In 2018, the second set of students that traveled from Intibucá ranked 16th and won the silver medal for the Zhang Heng Award for Engineering Design. Alan and his team had helped empower these youth to see just how much they were truly capable of.
“I would have to say mentoring these kids is one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life,” Alan said. “The FIRST Global experience has given these kids a sense of self worth that would be hard to produce in any other way.”