Young Saint Lucians to par­tic­i­pate in Ro­bot­ics Olympics!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Keryn Nel­son

Icould 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.

Left to right: Anna Kaye Boodho, Ta­ton David and Dion Ra­cai proudly demon­strate the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their in­ven­tion, He­wanorra.

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