Ministry of Education, Guyana

Thursday, 14 March 2019 10:12

Nationwide robotics competition to begin next month

—STEM Guyana looking to host Caribbean Robotics competition in Guyana

A nationwide robotics competition will begin next month as local tech organisation, STEM Guyana, continues with its efforts to engage young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Co-founder of STEM Guyana, Karen Abrams, told the Guyana Chronicle that this competition is the first of its kind in Guyana and it is building on the pilot league done last year, which involved 15 teams of young people. “We learnt a lot of lessons from that [pilot programme] and we have about 50 teams that will be part of the competition this year,” Abrams said.

She also highlighted that STEM Guyana would be using the learning experiences garnered from its participation in the 2017 and 2018 international competitions and share that among the local youth population. “What we’re doing is using fun to attract them into technology and get them learning about STEM,” she explained further. “Our goal out of this is that in 10 or 15 years, our young people would be better problem solvers and thinkers [and] people who are starting companies helping with the development of solutions.”

The teams will be drawn from across eight regions in Guyana and will tap into the STEM clubs that are being created across the country. These clubs, as explained by the co-founder, have been created out of partnerships with communities and some through collaboration with the Department of Youth and Director of Youth.

There about 30 STEM clubs, presently, which have been using the ICT hubs created by the Ministry of Public Telecommunications. And the organisation works in conjunction with the youth department to teach children about robotics every week in the various spaces. The clubs have also been created within eight local libraries, where the aim is to facilitate learning in literacy and STEM. “Every week, every Saturday or even sometimes during the week, people are getting together [at the clubs] and getting young people into solving building learning and preparing them for competition,” Abrams related. This competition will begin in April and will take place within the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), then within the regions and finally, at the national level. The competition will be managed through an online portal, where the challenge will be issued and the youths will be required to craft their robot to respond to the stimulus and issue video showing how the robot responds.

“We use that process to create a ranking of the teams and then we move them forward until we get to the end of the tournament,” Abrams noted.
And importantly, this competition will also serve as a pre-qualifier for Team Guyana’s participation in two international robotics championships: the First Global Robotics Competition scheduled for August 2019 and the International Youth Robotics Competition to be held in November 2019.


In addition to this national competition and preparing for the international competitions, Abrams also disclosed that STEM Guyana is hoping to craft and facilitate a Caribbean Robotics competition in Guyana, later this year. “We’re already in discussion with some of our contacts in the Caribbean,” she shared, while adding that few Caribbean countries have indicated their interest in the work being done by STEM Guyana.

Of particular interest to these countries, according to her, is the way the organisation is doing work nationwide as against in some pockets, through various persons or groups. Abrams, who visited Suriname recently for an engagement in this discipline, even indicated that this country is trying to learn from the local organisation. What happens is that there are little clubs here and there, managed by independent persons but they don’t have that national rollout of clubs. That in itself is new and unique, but many of them are looking at us and they want to be part of this… haven’t tried anything down as yet. It is her hope that before the national competition ends, there will be a “deal squared away”.
She also indicated that once plans move ahead for this, local government ministries will be incorporated, since this competition could augur well for the local tourism sector.


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