Young Saint Lucians to participate in Robotics Olympics!

The St. Lucia STAR

I could hardly wait to join Tuesday’s gathering at the department of Education. Three teenage students were scheduled to test-run the robot they had built to compete in the annual FIRST Global Robotics Olympics—a competition for high school-aged participants who work together to solve global challenges. The Ministry of Communications’ team comprised three 18-year old A-Level students who will be heading to Mexico to represent Saint Lucia: Taton David, Dion Racai and Anna Kaye Boodho along with their robot “Hewanorra”.

Also present was team manager Giannetti George, student mentor Kevon Clarke and Chief Education Officer Ruffina Charles. Smiling from ear to ear, Giannetti offered titbits about Saint Lucia’s robot team: “Although we have very little experience in robotics, the members of Team Saint Lucia have been very passionate about science; their mental prowess is outstanding.”

The look on their young faces said clearly they were smack dab in the middle of a dream come true. This was how Taton introduced himself: “I aspire to be a physicist. My interest lies in the realm of STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Participating in the FIRST Global competition has given me the opportunity to increase my network, meet other persons from different cultures, learn from them and to also gain support from around the world as I embark on my future career.”

Dion offered details of the carefully mounted metal structure propped up on a table: “With Hewanorra, we had to build, wire and programme it to do several tasks. These include being able to lift a claw, open the claw to grab boxes, turn the claw, move boxes using a conveyer system, as well as spin a wind turbine. And of course it can drive, turn left, right, forward and straight.”

The trio had a successful demonstration in the ministry’s lobby. Hewanorra zoomed around the room, lifting boxes and placing them down on chairs and in the hands of impressed onlookers. According to the team, the robot was made with the tournament’s 2018 theme in mind—“Energy Impact”—and meets all the requirements set by FIRST Global.

Anna Kaye hypnotized everyone when she commented on the involvement of Saint Lucian girls in STEM programmes: “I am the only girl on the team. In a country like Saint Lucia, where more than 50% of managerial positions are held by women, that is an accomplishment for me because in some other countries women are denied the opportunity to learn about STEM or robotics or any of these things. Some of them don’t even get to go to school. So it’s a great step for Saint Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean when we see young girls like myself involved in things like this.”

Last year in the FIRST Global Robotics Olympics, Saint Lucia’s team came in 51st place out of 157 teams, even outperforming countries like Japan and Russia. This year’s team, that according to manager Giannetti has established a sturdy, enjoyable team synergy among themselves, says their hearts are set to perform at their peak come August 15-18 when the event will officially take place in Mexico City. The team implored Saint Lucians to follow their journey at 758 FIRST Global Robotic Olympics 2018 on Facebook.

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