Lae students take on the world

TWO girls will represent Papua New Guinea in in Mexico City in an international robot Olympics for high schoolers. The pair from Lae Secondary School in Morobe will compete in the Olympics For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Global Challenge from Wednesday to Saturday.

The event is an annual international robotics challenge organised by the International FIRST Committee Association (IFCA) to ignite passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Lae girls – Stephanie Wakma and Emerald Pipingan – will be among 163+ country teams from different countries and will be accompanied by teacher Martha Aaron.

Aaron said the invitation to take part in the event was an opportunity the school could not miss.

“Lae Secondary School was invited through our contacts. And we were fortunate, though it was a short notice,” she said. “The event is basically to promote STEM education worldwide and to bring together high school-aged students (14-18 years), to get more of them to study science and, especially, STEM.”

Wakma said the students from line one and two helped with assembling their mini-bot within four weeks.

“They sent to us a robot kit with a manual to build a mini-bot. We first assembled it and then we took it apart. We went through a trial and error just to get it right,” she said. “It was a learning experience because we all know nothing about it. So we studied the manuals and instructions until we got it right. From there we made our own modifications to it. We wanted it to be bigger or faster, we did adjustments and the last step was modifying the claw, which will pick up stuff during the competition. Unfortunately, most of the team members cannot make it but only two of us will represent them at the competition.

“I aspire to be a future aircraft engineer and with this opportunity they are promoting STEM education, and with this competition, it is a wonderful opportunity for me to meet other mentors and people over there. FIRST Global is giving a great opportunity to students around the world, and I hope that when I come back I can be a mentor to my younger peers in the community.”

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