Training for Secondary School Students for International Robotics Competition

The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) is partnering up with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Global Higher Education Network to facilitate the First Global Robotics Competitionorganised for high school students around the world.

FIRST Global is an international non-profit organisation that partners students between the ages fifteen (15) to eighteen (18) with engineering mentors to spark interest in technical education and careers.

The mission of the FIRST Global Higher Education Network is to serve as a catalyst for inspiring interest and promoting active involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among students through technology and mentorship.

One team per nation is invited to participate in an international competition that celebrates inspiration and collaboration. Teams are provided with a standard kit of parts to build a robot capable of competing in a game that addresses a global challenge; such as clean water, energy, or cybersecurity.

This year, under the coordination of FSTE Learning & Teaching office, students from Fiji and other Pacific countries namely Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will participate in this competition which will be held in Mexico City from the 15-18 August.

Associate Professor Bibhya Sharma, Associate Dean (Learning & Teaching), who is also the team leader for the Pacific Robotics teams, said that this is one of the best opportunities for secondary school students in the Pacific to be inspired through shared learning and active collaboration.

Associate Professor Sharma added that STEM needs to be addressed more aggressively in the region, and such competitions help created awareness and generate interests in students.

For Fiji, the high school students from nearby schools in Suva are trained and mentored by USP’s Engineering staff lead by Dr Utkal Mehta.

Initially a total of twelve (12) students, three (3) students each from four (4) schools including Suva Grammar School, Jai Narayan College, MGM High and Yat Sen Secondary were selected.

Later, the group will be narrowed down to 4-5 students who will represent Fiji in the competition. The first training session was held on 25 May 2018.

The selection process is also underway in other countries under the mentorship of campus-based staff; Mr Moses Hunui (Solomon Islands), Mr Bauro Tewareka (Kiribati), Dr Krishna Kotra (Vanuatu), Mr Nofo Fonua (Tonga) and Mr Noel Tiatia (Samoa).

Dr Mehta said that he was excited to train and mentor the selected high school students and prepare them for this year’s competition which is themed at Energy Impact.

Mr Kele Musudroka, Vice Principal of Suva Grammar School thanked FSTE for facilitating this international competition and allowing the students to be part of the inaugural competition.

“The students will gain the much needed exposure through training and mentoring by FSTE’s Engineering team,” Mr Musudroka stated.

Raza Tabish, a year 13 student of Jai Narayan College said that he was delighted to be selected by the school, adding that “I am looking forward to the robotics competition and learning from USP mentors.”

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