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SAC’s team 64th at inaugural FIRST Global Robot Olympics

Overcomes shocking first round as robot fails to move
  • Members of SAC’s team, with Chet Neymour, second right, Bahamas deputy chief of mission to Washington. Pictured from left are Mateus Goncalves, Perdawn Taylor, Nia Strachan, Frankiesha Wright, Jared Nurse, computer studies teacher and team mentor Dauran McNeil and Leyhanessa Rolle.

  • Nia Strachan, Perdawn Taylor and Jared Nurse on the competition stage with their robot.

  • St. Augustine’s College team members Lwyhanessa Rolle and Jared Nurse with members of Team Mexico as they assist the SAC team with design adjustments to their robot during the inaugural FIRST Global Robot Olympics in Washington, D.C. Team Bahamas returned with a 64th place showing out of a field of 163 participating teams from 157 nations and six continental representatives. PHOTOS: DAURAN MCNEIL

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jul 31, 2017

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Team Bahamas overcame a difficult start to the inaugural FIRST Global Robot Olympics in Washington, D.C. to return home with a 64th place showing out of a field of 163 participating teams from 157 nations and six continental representatives.

For the competition, students used STEM (science, technology, engineering and math technology) in building, breaking down and rebuilding the robots they presented to compete in the world’s first high school-level Robot Olympics, from July 16–18.

The six-person team from St. Augustine’s College (SAC) went into the competition confident that the robot they built would be up to the task at hand; but they were shocked in the first round when their robot failed to move.

The squad comprised of Perdawn Taylor, Jared Nurse, Frankiesha Wright, Nia Strachan, Mateus Goncalves and Leyhanessa Rolle had to troubleshoot on the spot. They discovered electrical wiring difficulties, and problems with their robot’s hanging had to be revamped. Once they got over the hump, Team Bahamas’ robot was able to put in a strong performance in the year when the competition’s theme focused on access to clean water. Competing in randomly assigned three-team alliances during each round of play, teams needed to remove contaminant particles from a simulated river, a task that was best accomplished if robots within an alliance worked together. The more contaminants a robot collected, the more points a team received.

Nurse, the team’s captain was the one to determine changes needed to be made to the hanging mechanism that was totally revamped.

The SAC team also received help from Team Mexico, which went to the Bahamian team’s pit and helped them to come up with their hanging system, helping Team Bahamas garner bonus points.

After that first round hiccup, Computer studies teacher Dauran McNeil, who led the SAC team into the competition, said the squad’s robot was able to help commendably throughout their remaining rounds. The team was able to collect the water particles and put them in the reservoir.

McNeil wasn’t allowed to help the students troubleshoot when they encountered problems. He said the assistance they received from the Mexican team was a true display of what the competition was about.

During the Team Bahamas–Team Mexico collaboration, the Mexican participants took the opportunity to sharpen their English skills, while Team Bahamas tried to learn some Spanish.

“The whole competition was to teach collaboration and

innovation to the young persons in basically facing challenges around the world,” said McNeil.

“I’m confident that my students came away with some critical thinking skills. I think they came away with innovation and what you’re able to do with technology. I had some female students on my team who didn’t even know how to hold a screwdriver, and now they can put in a screw or connect a gear to the robot. So just to see that at the end of the competition made me speechless, in my eyes, as an educator. To see that some of my students came into the competition with no experience at all with robotics; didn’t even know how to hold a screwdriver, or didn’t know how to connect two gears, and at the end of competition, they were able to sit their in the pit and actually hold a screwdriver and help the team get the robot ready for competition. What they have walked away with is immeasurable. I am really proud of what they we able to do.”

SAC’s team competed in six rounds of competition.

As some of the team members prepare to head off to university and others enter 11th or 12th grade with the start of the new academic year, McNeil said the students’ takeaway is knowing how to think on their feet; think critically; apply themselves; and collaborate with people from other countries, which he said is what they need in today’s world in making a better Bahamas.

“We need young people with team spirit who know how to work with other persons with different personalities. We need them to think critically, as opposed to just waiting for someone to tell them what to do. We want them to, at the end of the day, to think critically and to be innovators of technology to think of how to solve today’s problems.”

Team Trinidad and Tobago and Team Guyana were the only two teams from the Caribbean to place in the top 20, with Guyana placing 10th.

St Kitts and Nevis ranked 36th, Haiti’s team came 44th, Jamaica was 48th, St. Lucia was 51st, Bermuda was 59th, the Dominican Republic’s squad was 104th, with Barbados was 122, Cuba was 126 and Dominica rounding out the Caribbean teams at 147.

Team Europe, Poland, Armenia, Israel and Germany rounded out the top five teams, respectively. Team North America came in at 116.

As the curtain closed on the historic inaugural FIRST Global Challenge, Mexico City was announced as the host of the 2018 challenge. The competition will take 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.

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.

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.

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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