Will ‘Team Seychelles’ once again outperform USA, Russia, Canada & France?

Following its outperforming of a number of developed countries in the FIRST Global Robotic Challenge last year, Seychelles will once again participate in this year’s challenge, set to take place at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City, in August this year.

FIRST Global is a not-for-profit public charity based in the United States (US) which provides the framework for an ‘Olympics’-style robotics challenge. It seeks to inspire science and technology leadership and innovation in young people from all nations, to increase understanding, impress the importance of cooperation, address the world’s most pressing issues, and improve quality of life for all (FIRST Global).

To accomplish their mission, FIRST Global organises an annual international robotics challenge in a different nation each year, mainly to:

  • Ignite passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among youth
  • Inspire students to learn skills they will need to make discoveries
  • Convince national governments and organisations to embrace and support STEM education

There are 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering (water, energy, security, medicine, food and education) identified by the National Academy of Engineering. Each year, a different Grand Challenge takes centre stage, to foster understanding, cooperation and trust among youth participating in the robotics challenge, as they attempt to solve world problems.

The theme for this year’s challenge is ‘Energy Impact’ and this will explore the impacts of various types of energy on the world, and how they can be made more sustainable. The teams will learn about real-world energy challenges surrounding electrical grid connectivity and the role of diverse sources of energy.

Robots will work together in teams to give cubes to human players, turn a crank, and score cubes in goals in order to generate electrical power. The challenge is based on three Engineering Grand Challenges; making solar energy affordable, making fusion energy a reality, and creating carbon sequestration methods.

The theme comes at a fitting time for Seychelles, following a Robot Building and Programming competition which was held locally in April this year, to commemorate International Girls in ICT day, an event organised by the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH) -Seychelles in collaboration with the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB).

As such, Nisti (National Institute for Science, Technology and Innovation) requested that the top 5 school teams nominate one girl candidate to represent Team Seychelles at the robotic challenge, led by Xavier Estico, chief executive (CEO) of Nisti and supported by Joseph Raj Xavier, principal research officer – Innovation, Kevin Fabien, principal research officer – Research & Development, and Beryl Payet of SYAH as the technical mentor.

Team Seychelles consist of the following students: Sanjeetha Pillay (Independent School Seychelles), Steffie-Anna Monthy (International School Seychelles), Trisha Labiche (Vijay International School), Amy Joubert (Belonie secondary school), and Louta Bastienne (Beau Vallon secondary school).

Seychelles first participated in FIRST Global Robotic Challenge last year. As part of Nisti’s vision to bring robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), the institute organised for six students and one mentor from Beau Vallon secondary school to represent Seychelles at the 2017 challenge, in Washington D.C, United States of America (USA).

The theme for that year was ‘Access to Clean Water’ and the challenge was the use of robots for the Engineering Grand Challenge of improving access to clean water in developing countries.

For their first participation in such an event, ‘Team Seychelles’ performed well, ranking 105th out of 163 other countries. The continental ranking for Seychelles was 25th out of 40 African countries and Nisti received a bronze medal of Al-Khwarizmi award for outstanding supporter.

Mr Estico says that “while Robotics and AI are new thematic areas that are slowly receiving attention locally, it is important that we prepare our youth with the relevant knowledge and skills through international exposures. Most importantly, it is vital and crucial that a national dialogue on the two important thematic areas is opened with curriculum developers, to ensure that they become part of the school curricula of our national STEM Education System”.

Mr Estico explains that “in Seychelles, transition to an innovation-driven, knowledge-based economy from an economy-efficiency-driven model, knowledge becomes the most important factor of production in support of economic diversification”.

He adds that “despite the fact that our economy is heavily dependent on services and is labour intensive, there is scope for automation of our processes and procedures through AI, while Robotics may help to increase productivity and reduce the dependency of foreign labour. The other important aspect is to motivate our limited human resources to migrate to higher skilled jobs with modern technologies”.

Mr Estico calls for the support of the entire population for the upcoming 2018 FIRST GLOBAL Robotic challenge which he says is “not only a platform for competing national teams in robotics, but it is also a platform for the development of global citizens who are aware of global issues that can be tackled through Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).  The members representing ‘Team Seychelles’ do not only have a privilege to be part of a global citizenship-building experience, but as an opportunity to promote Seychelles globally in STEM Education. We therefore appeal for national support of Team Seychelles 2018”.

–> Read More