USP to host training for “FIRST Global Challenge”

Eight (8) students selected from four secondary schools in Suva were part of the first round of the “FIRST Global Challenge” at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campuson 16 August 2019.

The schools are Suva Grammar School, YatSen Secondary School, Jai Narayan College and MGM High School which sent two-member teams each, comprising both male and female to represent Team Fiji, mentored by USP’s Dr Utkal Mehta.

FIRST Global is a non-profit organisation that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and career development by involving students from around the world in a robotics competition modeled after the Olympic Games. This year, the second annual “FIRST Global Challenge” will be held in Dubai on 24-27 October.

Dr Bibhya Sharma, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) said USP has been involved in this challenge since 2018, with staff mentoring high school students in the regional campuses.

“Last year a team from Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga represented the South Pacific region out of which 3 teams were mentored by USP. We are very pleased to announce that one of the teams were placed in the top 50 in the world. The other Pacific teams were not far behind,” he said.

“This year we are happy to have extended the challenge to the other USP member countries and we now have 8 teams representing – Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Cook Islands,” he added.

USP will host the training for these students and teach them how to design, construct, and programme a robot for a sports-like competition using a standard kit of components. The teams of high school youth, mentored by USP staff, will design and build their robots between August to September, and then convene to compete in October.

Dr Sharma sincerely thanked principals and teachers for facilitating this global challenge and most importantly, parents for giving their consent. He also thanked the staff for volunteering to mentor the teams.

“We would like to thank the Government of Dubai for sponsoring airfare and the organisers for sponsoring the accommodation,” he added.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia, USP Vice-Chancellor & President said it is pleasing to note the participation of females in the competition.

“We obviously want to see more women in STEM especially engineering,” he said.

“There is no reason why engineering should be restricted to boys – all around the world women are at the forefront of artificial intelligence,” Professor Ahluwalia added.

The FIRST Global Challenge invites each country to send a team to compete in their robotics olympics, which takes place in a different nation each year. This year, each nation can send one team of 5 high school-age students and 2 mentors to represent them.

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