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Built SAC tough

  • The St. Augustine’s College (SAC) squad, which has built a robot to compete in the world’s first high school-level Robot Olympics, July 16–18 in Washington D.C. The team is participating in a year when the theme’s focus is on access to clean water. They will compete in randomly assigned three-team alliances during each round of play. Teams will need to remove contaminant particles from a simulated river. Pictured from left at front are Jared Nurse, Nia Strachan and Dauran McNeil, computer studies teacher and team coach. From left at back are Frankiesha Wright, Serenity Hanna, Jayvin Mycklewhyte, Ahmad Ford and Mateus Goncalves.

  • SAC’s 20”x 20” robot for the competition. FIRST Global teams were each provided with a self-contained, educational robotics kit that included all needed mechanical, electrical and software components.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jul 03, 2017

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A team of six students from St. Augustine’s College (SAC) will comprise one of the 163 participating teams from 157 nations and six continental representatives at the FIRST Global Challenge.

Perdawn Taylor, Jared Nurse, Frankiesha Wright, Nia Strachan, Mateus Goncalves and Leyhanessa Rolle, led by computer studies teacher/mentor Dauran McNeil, have spent the last three months using STEM (science, technology, engineering and math technology) in building, breaking down and rebuilding a robot they will present to compete in the world’s first high school level Robot Olympics in Washington, D.C. July 16–18.

The FIRST Global Challenge is an annual robotics competition, which, each year, focuses on a different issue of global importance. The competition takes place in a different nation each year, and the theme is drawn from one of the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering identified by the United States (U.S.) National Academy of Engineering.

SAC’s team is participating in a year when the theme’s focus is on access to clean water. They will compete in randomly assigned three-team alliances during each round of play. Individual games will have two alliances facing each other at a time, for a total of six teams on the field. Teams will need to remove contaminant particles from a simulated river, a task that is best accomplished if robots within an alliance work together.

McNeil said the team members are confident in the countdown to the competition; they believe the robot they’ve built is up to the task at hand. In the final days before they head into the competition, they are working to improve their robot’s efficiency.

“We need it to move more freely, more efficiently and faster, to actually go and collect the contaminants. The team is working right now at programming the robot to work more efficiently.”

The more contaminants a robot collects, the more points a team receives.

FIRST Global teams were each provided with a self-contained, educational robotics kit that includes all needed mechanical, electrical and software components. The build set is designed to be usable by both engineer and experienced teams.

The equipment is divided into a “build component” and a “programming component”. The build component includes materials like brackets, extrusions, fastening hardware, hardware adaptors, bearings, wheels of different sizes, gears, pulleys, motors, servos and sprockets. All parts can be fastened together with parts inside the kit and do not require additional connective materials.

Some of the programming component options include Android Studio suite (which allows



coding in Java), along with a visual programming block language that is for beginners.

FIRST Global’s mission is to inspire science and technology leadership and innovation in young people from all nations in order to increase understanding, instill the importance of cooperation, address the world’s most pressing issues and improve the quality of life for all. By showing the youth of the world that if they communicate, cooperate and work together — even in a competition — using the tools of science and engineering to find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, they will be able to accomplish great things and become part of a truly global community.

McNeil hopes the SAC students — who are members of the school’s computer science club, Google CS (computer science) First Club, which encourages and fosters passion for computer science — return from the competition with heightened critical thinking skills.

“I want them to get exposure in computer science, because that’s really important in today’s society. We have a lot of young people who are interested in the technology application, but you rarely see students who are interested in actually inventing technology. So what I actually hope they can get is to be critical thinkers in solving even our country’s problems through technology, and whether that’s innovation, whether that’s making technology, or making applications like we’re looking at here… a robot to basically solve a problem.”

The SAC team built a robot of 20”x 20” dimensions to solve their water problem.

Along with providing access to clean water, the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering, as identified by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, are: advancing personalized learning, making solar energy economical, enhancing virtual reality, reverse-engineering the brain, engineering better medicines, advancing health informatics, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, securing cyberspace, providing energy from fusion, preventing nuclear terror, managing the nitrogen cycle, developing sequestration methods and engineering the tools of scientific discovery.

Teams were able to begin building their robots after the robot kits were shipped in the first two weeks of March. They can continue to build all the way until they arrive in Washington, D.C. for the competition.

Teams will check in on July 14, with robot inspections taking place on July 15. Practice rounds will be held on July 15 and 16. The first two days of FIRST Global gameplay are July 17–18, with awards handed out on July 18.

McNeil said he was happy the team is able to represent their school and carry the Bahamian flag high at the upcoming competition.

“I’m glad that these students, who have a passion for computer science, can get this type of exposure, because we will be competing against first world countries that have robotics as a subject, whereas we’re doing this basically in our spare time after school.”

SAC is fielding a six-person squad at the competition. Each team must have between three and seven students, ages 15 to 18, along with one adult technical mentor/coach for the competition. There is no limit on the number of team members or adult technical mentors/coaches who can work on the robot at home.

The International FIRST Committee Association (FIRST Global) was founded by philanthropic investor Dean Kamen and is headed by former U.S. Navy Admiral and Congressman Joe Sestak.


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