Team Guyana at the FIRST Global Challenge, 2017

This past week, I, along with eight other members of STEM Guyana’s robotics team, had the pleasure of participating in the FIRST Global Challenge 2017. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in the US in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST Global is a new challenge designed to ignite a global passion for STEM, by having national teams design and build a robot from scratch given a kit of materials, and compete in person in a series of games, which are modeled after a pressing world problem.

The 2017 competition, “H2O FLOW” addressed water scarcity and contamination issues. The premise given was that two villages exist on either side of a contaminated river, and villagers compete to create and store purified water in their respective reserves (a local example of this would be the 1995 OMAI spill where cyanide and heavy metal laden water spilled into the Essequibo river affecting areas like Bartica). In a laboratory up stream of the contamination, however, the villagers unite to research the contaminants and ultimately create a purification system so contaminants are removed before they reach the villages, thus providing clean water for all. In the end, each village also prepares for the coming flood by searching for higher ground. The actual course upon which the robots compete is thus designed to award points based on the number of contaminants each robot gives to the laboratory and the amount of clean water stored in an elevated location more resilient to flooding. The contaminants and clean water were distinguished by the colour of the balls (orange vs blue respectively) during the competition and a ramp was used to indicate the higher-level reservoir.

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