Robotics team to compete in Dubai

The Cayman Islands National Robotics Team will travel to Dubai next month to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge. The team members, from left, are: Oscar Martinez, Grace Christian Academy; Adrian Phillips-Hernáez, student mentor, Cayman Prep and High School; Xaria Deosaran, Cayman Prep and High School; Caylem Hill, Cayman International School; Pierce Serrant, Cayman Islands Further Education Centre; Edmund Pileta, Clifton Hunter High School; Nilakni Jayasekera, St. Ignatius Catholic School; Kieran Finch, St. Ignatius Catholic School; Samuel White, John Gray High School; and Craig Maitland, Clifton Hunter High School. Missing from photo: Jack McGregor, Cayman International School.

The Cayman Islands National Robotics Team is heading to Dubai next month to participate in the 2019 FIRST Global Challenge.

Themed around the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering identified by the National Academy of Engineering, the competition, to be held 24-27 Oct., aims to empower young people to use STEM to solve global problems. The objective of this year’s event, themed ‘Ocean Opportunities’, is to draw attention to the ways in which ocean pollution negatively affects marine life and human health.

The New Hampshire-based FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, according to its website.

In the game, the Cayman Islands team will be randomly paired with two teams from different countries to form an alliance that will compete against another group of three nations.

Ahead of the Dubai trip, the Cayman students took part in a series of educational visits as part of their pre-competition curriculum to learn about STEM careers available locally.

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Dart Minds Inspired introduced FIRST robotics to the Cayman Islands earlier this year through a partnership with companies associated with one of the STEM subjects: Health City Cayman Islands (science), Digicel (technology), Caribbean Utilities Company (engineering) and Aureum Re (mathematics).

The students’ first field trip was to CUC’s headquarters where they learned about the variety of STEM-related careers available at the electricity provider and toured its facilities at Industrial Park.

Team member Samuel White, of John Gray High School, was impressed by the CUC tour. “I learned a lot, but one thing that stood out was how substations are used to rectify – or step down – the 69,000V to consumers at 13,000V, then the transformers on the poles step it down to the 240V and 120V we use in our houses.”

Next they went to Aureum Re in Camana Bay where the students learned about the reinsurance industry, and how mathematics and statistics are used to assess risk.

Although the number of reinsurance companies in Cayman is increasing, Aureum Re CEO David Towriss explained that there are currently only two Caymanians qualified as actuaries and that there are significant employment opportunities locally for young people who pursue a career in actuarial science.

Cayman Prep and High School student Xaria Deosaran said she enjoyed the visit “because I got to learn about what actuaries are and what they do within a business. It interested me as something I may want to do in the future”.

At Health City, the tour for the students included the hospital’s laboratory, its department of advanced medical imaging and radiology services, and the facility’s “back of house” where the internal systems that keep the medical centre running are located.

Nilakni Jayasekera, of St. Ignatius Catholic School, said of visiting Health City, “It was pretty eye-opening to learn about the many connections there are between robotics and medicine.”

Clifton Hunter High School student Craig Maitland added, “My favourite field trip was the trip to Health City where we learned that being more technologically advanced doesn’t mean services have to be more expensive.”

Lastly, Digicel representatives visited the national team at its George Town headquarters to provide an overview of the company’s operations, discuss how machine learning and artificial intelligence are changing the telecommunications industry, and see the team’s robot in action.

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