Mon | Jul 15, 2019

RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | Marvin Hall, Creating a better Jamaica through pioneering robotics and coding

Published:Monday | January 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Marvin Hall, founder of Halls of Learning
Marvin Hall, founder of Halls of Learning
From left: Jason Turpin, Hall of Learning team member; Marvin Hall, founder, Halls of Learning; Candy Lee Gouldbourne, Percival Robinson, and Russell Gunning, Halls of Learning team members.

Marvin Hall has talked the talk and is now walking the walk in an effort at giving Jamaican children an opportunity to be on a level playing field as their counterparts in other more developed countries, and in the process, he has pioneered a new and exciting path for Jamaicans.

In establishing his Halls of Learning institution, playing on his surname, Hall has started a revolution, and his business title tells the tale.

"I am a father, teacher, and educational revolutionary.

"I think of myself as an educational revolutionary because when I look at Jamaica, I love this country; I see that we need to have a learning revolution, and so when I was thinking about starting my company, I was reading a lot of Tom Peters - a management guru, he was talking about radical and innovative companies and using innovative titles, more than the CEO's and such," he told The Gleaner.

Putting his new-found appreciation into practise came easy; he was, after all, Marvin Hall, chief educational revolutionary of Halls of Learning, the upstart company he started in August 2003.

He said that it was the first step in visualising the role he intended to play while influencing a learning revolution.

Hall, who stands to receive the 2018 RJR Gleaner Honour Awards (Special Award) in the category of Science and Technology, has a steep background in teaching, having studied math and computer science at the University of the West Indies, Mona, before returning to his alma mater, Campion College where he taught mathematics.

"It was there that I actually fell in love with teaching," he quipped.

Hall furthered his studies in The Netherlands, where he did his masters in education technology. He then returned home where he completed his teacher training. He taught at Camperdown High for a number of years and also lectured at the University of the West Indies.

He said that it was those bits of experiences that gave him the necessary exposure and made him pushed to start the Halls of Learning.

Hall noted the significant influence the exploits of National Hero Marcus Garvey has played in his own life.

"It was learning about this man that did the trick for me. He never had a big university degree. In fact, he ended up with about a grade nine-level education and it didn't stop him. He read extensively and he kept learning through his travel.

"Garvey was a man of learning. His life inspired me, his self-reliance, among all, to start Halls of Learning and to bring it to children regardless of their background," stated Hall.


Master Robotics and Coding

Hall, whose forte has evolved into master robotics and coding, has a team of eight people working with and they have quickly stamped their value in the world of robotics, pioneering in this new field of endeavour in Jamaica to cop a number of awards in international robotics competitions.

"All our children need a certain level of exposure. It's something we are dedicated to and it's something that we have used to have a sustainable business. This is what robotics and coding can do for our children, said Hall.

According to him, pursuing robotics and coding is to utilise the highly touted STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as the ideal way of turning around the overall trajectory of the country's education sector.

"This is what robotics and coding are about, exploring deeply the STEM subjects area. I think Jamaican children obviously love the hands-on experiences. The typical blackboard or whiteboard setting where children just sit and listen to a teacher is not enough.

"Children, as you know, are very active. They come up through the primary years being active, but as they get older, it's more about sitting down and being still. So when we are giving them this hands-on experience through robotics, it stimulates their critical thinking, they learn how to work as a team, how to relate to others.

He said that these are lifelong skills being taught to children at a very early stage, which will create that difference needed for the country to depend on their expertise in later years to help move Jamaica forward.

The potential for growth in robotics and coding is immense. According to Hall, there could be a robotics industry, the design of artificial intelligence that could play key roles in the greater employment sector.

"These are big deals. Artificial intelligence is a big thing being talked about across the world now, in relation to who is leading, whether China or the United States and using data to help to make decisions and autonomous cars and drones. All this stuff is rooted in computer science and robotics engineering."

He said that such a massive industry, if it takes off, places Jamaica in line to where the developed world is going, and opening up creative opportunities, unheard of 20 years ago.

Ever the revolutionary, Hall stated that the RJRGLEANER Honour Awards means a lot to him because it recognises the work he has put in over the years in pioneering something that before, was not seriously looked at in Jamaica.

"It is important because it also shows the country that these kinds of skill that we have been promoting, and this space that we have been pioneering for a number of years, is actually becoming very important and needs to be put in front of Jamaica as something we can celebrate and strive towards and measure ourselves against the best in the world and something we can eventually lead the world in," noted Hall.

As for his vision for Jamaica's future: "My vision is for a Jamaica that would become not just a coloniser through music or a world leader in track and field, but a coloniser of the world because we invented things that people come here and they want that product we invented here. That's my vision for Jamaica."