Tech it or leave it

As technology takes an increasing role in daily life, countries are competing to be at the forefront of the industry.

Lucky for Myanmar, a team of five talented university students are representing the nation in the FIRST Global Robotics Olympics held in Mexico from August 15 to 18, against more than 175 nations.

Supported by Phandeeyar, an innovation lab using technology to speed up development in Myanmar, this is the second time Myanmar students partake in the annual global robotic event. The event is hosted by a non-profit charity focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Last year’s Myanmar team was ranked sixth out of 163 teams in the Olympics held in Washington. Two students from the team are from my university. They have been of great inspiration to me,” says Thuta Zaw, a student from Yangon Technological University. Along with four others, he left Yangon on August 12 to take part in the competition.

For this year’s robotics competition, Phandeeyar started to recruit students in early February. They received 147 applicants from 32 different institutions. About 70 screening interviews were conducted and five students qualified to be part of the team.

In April, students received a robot building kit and a box of material from FIRST Global, the competition organisers. The team had to use their imagination to design a robot which impresses the jury. To do so, the robots are tasked with performing an array of basic motions, such as dropping or picking up objects.

“Each country is invited to participate in the FIRST Global Challenge. We invited anyone in Myanmar to apply and 147 people all over Myamar applied. We picked five which we are assisting,” Jes Kaliebe Petersen, CEO of Phandeeyar, told The Myanmar Times.

He sees the competition as a unique way to show what the youth can do and how technology can play a role in the development of the country.

“Part of what we like about this event is that it shows the importance of science and STEM [Science, technology, engineering and mathematics]. So many parts of our lives depend on software, hardware and technology. It is really important for the youth to understand how technology is part of our world,” Jes Kaliebe Petersen added.

“Our aim is to get the youth interested in STEM education. We are not building a robot, but a community that promotes science,” explained Htoo Wai Htet, community manager of Makerspace, a place where the scientific community congregates to share ideas and equipment.

The trip to Mexico was funded by FIRST Global and Phandeeyar, an opportunity which participants have been fighting for.

“I have been interested in science and robots since I was young. I wanted to meet people with the same passion. This competition is a great opportunity for me,” says Tin Myint Kyaw of the Royal Academic Institute and a member of the team.

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