The astronauts have their mission: Travel to a galaxy far, far away and deploy their custom-built robots to retrieve samples of silver and gold Unobtainium, a rare mineral found only on the barren Planet X.
For the past three months, nine teams from local high schools across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac have been working to develop prototypes of their robots to compete in the first Minds Inspired Robotics’ FIRST Technical Challenge, theme-named “Rover Ruckus.”
Sponsored by Dart, Aureum Re, Caribbean Utilities Co., Digicel and Cayman Islands Health City, the space-themed event will take place on the afternoon of May 11 at the Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Centre.
Dart Education Programmes Manager Glenda McTaggart says the FIRST Technical Challenge will be an out-of-this-world experience for participating students and spectators alike.
“This event is going to be unlike anything our community has seen in terms of educational events,” she says. “We are going to dramatically ‘up’ the level of energy, excitement and spectacle to recreate the atmosphere of the FIRST Global Challenge.”
The FIRST Technical Challenge will serve as a pre-qualifier for nomination to the National Robotics Team that will represent the Cayman Islands at the FIRST Global Challenge in Dubai later this year.
“The Global Challenge is an incredible learning experience and we want to make sure all students in the Cayman Islands have the chance to participate,” says McTaggart, explaining that selection for the National Team will be open to all participating students and will be based on nominations from the supervising teachers and team members.
With such high stakes, McTaggart says the robots designed by the local students will require a higher level of sophistication.
“Although the robots will not actually be launched into space, the theme informs what the robots should be able to do in the arena,” she says. “The robots will need to be able to navigate autonomously, collect items and manoeuvre over uneven terrain.”
The student teams are guided by their teachers and mentors from CUC who received special training through Minds Inspired Robotics. The training was led by Stan Hunter, an award-winning educator and founder of Canada’s top robotics team, who will also serve as official referee for the FIRST Technical Challenge.
“The teachers and mentors have been working outside of school hours to attend robotics training and help the students design and build their rovers,” McTaggart says. “Their dedicated support is crucial to the programme’s success.”
During the event, the student teams will be randomly paired to form alliances to compete against each other in the ring. Partners in one match could become opponents in the next.
McTaggart says the format requires teamwork and encourages the students to work collaboratively.
“To be successful, they have to work as a team and adapt to each other’s strengths,” she says. “Beyond the technical aspects of designing the robots, the social skills emphasised in the competition are also essential to the students’ continued development as future leaders in our community.”
Spectators are encouraged to attend the event and cheer on the student teams representing Cayman International School, Triple C School, Layman Scott High School, John Gray High School, Grace Christian Academy, Cayman Prep and High School, St. Ignatius Catholic School, Clifton Hunter High School and the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre.
For more information, please visit the www.mindsinspired.ky website or the Minds Inspired social media pages.