Guatemala’s National Robotics Team Reaches 25th out of 175 in the FIRST Global Challenge

Free Press

(Translated from Spanish.)

In 2019, Guatemala occupied position 71 of the FIRST Global Challenge, which organizes an Olympic robotics challenge every year, and this year it climbed to position 25.

The olympiad is intended to inspire more than two billion young people around the world to develop professionally in careers directed at Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM, for its acronym in English).

The FIRST Global Challenge invites each country to send a team to compete in the robotics olympics, which take place in a different nation each year.

Around the greatest challenges facing our planet, including the 14 Great Engineering Challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineering, each year a different challenge takes center stage in an effort to foster understanding and cooperation among the world’s youth as they use their skills to solve the world’s problems.

The challenges we face as a global society must be solved, and the next generation can solve them together, the activity’s website reads.

This year due to the pandemic, the competition was virtual. Óscar Rodas, mentor of the National Team, shared the news with Prensa Libre and commented that it was held in Washington, Mexico, and Dubai, and now it was virtual due to the pandemic.

The National Robotics Team of Guatemala obtained the 25th position, among the 175 countries around the world that participated.

At the Latin American level, Guatemala ranks third, said Rodas. The first places went to: 1) Bangladesh, 2) Chile and 3) Algeria. Colombia reached the eighth position. The complete ranking can be seen at the bottom of the activity page.

One of the young people selected, Pablo Lol, from Quiché, expressed great satisfaction and joy because “they managed to position Guatemala in a good position ahead of Mexico and the United States.” Pablo comments that his job as part of the selection consisted of designing and looking for solutions, as well as supervising the electronic components they used. Among other challenges, he recorded videos for the networks and one week was the moderator and speaker in some Webinars called STEMinar, which with the help of SENACYT they managed to teach. Lol is originally from Santa Cruz del Quiché and is 17 years old, studying a Bachelor of Science.

The National Robotics Team of Guatemala
It is formed from the National Robotics Encounter “Balam Project” that was born from the initiative of the project that bears the same name, which has been promoting the study of STEM areas in Guatemalan youth for 6 years through robotics.

This is the first robotics meeting at the national level, and calls for intermediate-level students to learn about technology and apply it in the search for proposals and solutions to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

This initiative is committed to the improvement of our country through technology, problem solving, and above all, to the training of new generations in this area to help the country get ahead, and it’s possible thanks to the founding entities Galileo University and Grupo Intellect, which have had the endorsement and support of entities such as the Ministry of Education and the National Secretariat of Science and Technology, SENACYT, as well as other sponsors.

This year there were more than 1,200 young people enrolled in the first Learn Phase, of which 60 young people reached the Create Phase, and of them 12 young people from different educational centers in the city and in the interior of the republic, were chosen to make up the national robotics selection to represent Guatemala in the world robotics olympics — The 2020 FIRST Global Challenge – Connecting Communities virtual format.

Pablo Maldonado is the captain of the national team and just graduated from Bachelor of Science, he is 18 years old. He comments that the work they did paid off and says: “I am very proud to have been part of this 2020 National Robotics Team and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.” Maldonado says the work they did during the season was multifaceted. He worked in areas such as programming, animation, editing, and public speaking. He states that: “Without a doubt we have all learned from each other.”

Learning by doing, the Balam Project methodology
The students who participate in the Balam Project are prepared through the Learning by Doing teaching-learning methodology. Within the 3 main pillars that are managed: learn, create, and compete. Participants develop skills and build solutions to the challenges posed to finally compete. This is how talented people are defined, the Balam project said in a statement.

Another of those selected, Alisson Pereira, 16, commented that they were very busy days due to her Baccalaureate studies in computer science with a commercial orientation that she takes in parallel at the Canadian College, but affirms that “she enjoyed them.” She considers that she is in a new stage and now has “a new way of seeing everything.”