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UJAA’s robotics team Singapore bound to compete in Olympics this month

Published:Friday | October 6, 2023 | 12:10 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
A robot made by Jamaican students for a previous International Robotics Olympics.
A robot made by Jamaican students for a previous International Robotics Olympics.

A 10-member robotics team, sponsored by the United States-based non-profit organisation Union of Jamaica Alumni Association (UJAA), is Singapore bound to compete in the Robotics Olympics.

The Olympics will run from October 7-10.

Team members are captain Johnathan Smith from Campion College, Shawn-Michael Ferguson from Campion College, Duncan Stanley from Wolmers’ Boys School, Glenmuir High School’s Terrance Grant, as well as Kimmi Chang from Hillel Academy and Taeija-Lee Hall-Watts from The American International School in Kingston.

They are accompanied by two coaches and two chaperones, one male and one female.

The theme for this year’s Olympics is ‘Hydrogen-based Energy Technologies’. All teams will address that theme in their presentations.

The UJAA was hoping to send a team of 10 students, two coaches, and two chaperones but had to scale back the number of students because it did not raise the funds necessary to support such a delegation.

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UJAA was trying to raise an additional US$20,000, but according to Donovan Wilson, the president of UJAA, failure to raise the needed funds resulted in a smaller contingent going to the Olympics.

The total cost of sending the team to Singapore is US$90,000.

Wilson told The Gleaner that last year, an 11-member team represented Jamaica at the Robotics Olympics, and the goal was to send a similar size team to this year’s event.

Wilson said that request was made to the Jamaican Government for support, but the association did not receive an answer.

UJAA has been undertaking sending teams to the Robotic Olympics since 2011.

The Jamaican Government provided some assistance in 2017, but last year, it did not provide any support, said Wilson.

“Everyone agrees that STEM education is the future, and the robotics competition is one way of exposing Jamaican students to technological developments taking place,” he said.

He said it is paramount that Jamaican students are exposed to robotics if they are to succeed in the future.

The Olympics are held annually, with participation from some 160 countries.

They are broken down in three parts – FIRST Global, FIRST Technical, and FIRST Lego. The Lego prices are aimed at getting young kids interested in robotics, said Wilson.

The 65-member umbrella organisation of alumni associations of schools in Jamaica –from basic to tertiary – has been consistent and deliberate in ensuring that Jamaica participates wherever in the world FIRST Global takes place.

UJAA has been the primary sponsor since the FIRST Global Challenge (FGC) began in 2017. The association said it has always contended that the programme provides students with expertise and exposure to a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not only allows them to engage with students from across the globe, but combines their accomplishment with encouragement and pride as true ambassadors of Jamaica for Jamaicans globally.

“The challenge encourages our young people to not only meet the technical challenge, but to do so with a spirit of cooperation. This combination of skills is what our children need to help us solve global problems. This competition provides life-changing experiences,” the association said.

Last year, the Jamaica team won the silver medal in the Albert Einstein Award category for FIRST Global International Excellence while UJAA won the Al-Khwarizmi Award for Outstanding Supporter.

This will be UJAA’s 12th year supporting robotics and the fifth year as a sponsor of the Jamaican team to the international robotics competition.

editorial@gleanerjm.com