After months of designing, building and programming, eight local high school teams gathered on 11 May at the Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Centre to test their robots in the Minds Inspired Robotics’ FIRST Technical Challenge. Sponsored by Aureum Re, Caribbean Utilities Co., Digicel and Health City Cayman Islands in partnership with Dart Minds Inspired, “Rover Ruckus” challenged teams to design robots capable of performing a variety of space-themed tasks.
The FIRST Technical Challenge is designed so teams compete in alliances rather than as individual competitors.
“Working with another team requires learning and playing to each other’s strengths if they want to win against the competing alliance,” said Dart Education Programmes Senior Manager Glenda McTaggart.
Students from Cayman International School, Cayman Islands Further Education Centre, Cayman Prep and High School, Clifton Hunter High School, Grace Christian Academy, John Gray High School, St. Ignatius Catholic School, and Triple C School all had the opportunity to work together during the competition.
Stan Hunter, founder of Canada’s top robotics team, presided over the event as a guest judge and said he was impressed with the number of participating teams.
“To have eight schools in the inaugural Technical Challenge was incredible,” he said. “I saw students problem-solving with students from other schools, while working alongside teachers and industry mentors.”
In a close victory, the Cayman International School and Cayman Prep and High School alliance triumphed over a St. Ignatius Catholic School and John Gray High School alliance.
The judges also recognised teams that went above and beyond during the competition, regardless of final scores.
St. Ignatius Catholic School accepted the Inspired Award for the team’s technical excellence and embodiment of key FIRST values. Cayman International School secured the Innovation and Engineering Design Award for their innovative and creative robot design. John Gray High School received the Team Spirit Award for their extraordinary enthusiasm and commitment to teamwork and Cayman Prep and High School received the Judges’ Award for their unique efforts throughout the competition.
PRELUDE TO FIRST Global
The FIRST Technical Challenge was also a pre-qualifier for nomination to the Cayman Islands National Robotics Team, which will compete at the FIRST Global Challenge in Dubai in October. All students who participated in the Rover Ruckus are eligible for Cayman Islands National Robotics Team, not just those students from the winning alliance, McTaggart said.
“Our goal is to assemble a diverse team that represents the Cayman Islands, not a particular school,” she said. “Teachers and mentors nominated students who stood out in terms of technical ability, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and organisation.”
CORPORATE ALLIANCE FOR STEM
Dart Chief Executive Officer Mark VanDevelde said that sponsor partners were chosen for their commitment to promoting STEM education locally.
“As Cayman’s economy evolves, the local demand for STEM jobs continues to increase,” he said. “Our organisations share a common goal in ensuring our young people are prepared to fill those roles.”
Each of the sponsoring companies is associated with one of the STEM subjects: Health City Cayman represents science; Digicel, technology; CUC, engineering; and Aureum Re, mathematics. Aureum Re Chief Executive Officer David Towriss said his reinsurance company is already looking forward to next year’s event.
“It was great to see so many young people engaged with the design, innovation and game strategy matched with an outstanding willingness to share knowledge and help other teams overcome obstacles and setbacks,” he said.
Sacha Tibbetts, CUC vice president customer service and technology, attended the event and was impressed with the level of participation and the quality of the students’ work. “Events like this allow students to expand their minds and get a taste of the vast opportunities the world has for them and their talents, all while having fun,” he said.
Recognising the importance of robotics to the medical field, Health City Cayman Islands Director of Business Development Shomari Scott said the hospital looks forward to continuing the partnership. “Health City Cayman Islands shares Minds Inspired’s vision of innovative STEM education models and was proud to co-sponsor the event,”
he said. “It was exciting to see the students having so much fun with learning, application and problem solving.”
Noting that he intended to stop by the event for only an hour and ended up staying for four, Digicel Chief Executive Officer Raul Nicholson-Coe said technology is critical to the continued economic success of the Cayman Islands.
“Caymanians have to compete globally for jobs and as such it is imperative that we promote and encourage our young people to get involved with technology so they are able to take advantage of the many job opportunities that will be available,” he said.