For the past six months, 14 students from a range of backgrounds have been gathering on Sunday afternoons at The Grand Pavilion for the 345 Robotics Club.

Organisers said this pilot programme was created to target kids in Cayman aged 11 to 14 years old who have not had the opportunity to experience hands-on robotics. The initiative is an extracurricular activity outside of school programmes.

The club is sponsored by TechCayman and is run by volunteers.

The students gather every Sunday to work on the robots.

Jennifer McCarthy, who manages TechCayman’s business development and operations, said in a press release, “TechCayman’s vision for the 345 Robotics Club is to unite Cayman’s exceptional kids through the fun and camaraderie of competitive robotics. It’s exciting for them, and for us, to plug into the global robotics trend, and we knew we wanted to offer this experience to kids who might not otherwise get the opportunity.

“We embarked on an experiment with our pilot programme and it has been enormously successful. Our team is extremely excited to continue to build on that success now.”

According to the release, using standardised components and a Vex Robotics curriculum designed for robotics education, the students have learned about the practical uses of artificial intelligence and robotics in the real world; mechanical concepts such as torque, the centre of gravity, and friction; and programming/coding, both with and without sensors.

“Robotics for kids is a great way to teach systematic thinking and problem solving,” said Kendra Morris, volunteer coordinator for 345 Robotics, adding that the Vex Robotics curriculum encourages children to learn and apply the fundamental insight that “problems are not failures”.

“One of the numerous advantages of Vex IQ robotics is that kids see real, instant results from applying their knowledge. They learn teamwork and cooperation by designing robots that can be driven and programmed to play a fun game,” she said.

The pilot programme was created for kids in Cayman aged 11 to 14 years old.

The 345 Robotics Club has been designing robots to play in the Vex IQ Challenge, a global robotics competition for children ages 9 to 14 hosted by the US-based Robotics Education and Competition Foundation.

This year’s challenge is called ‘Squared Away’. Participants work in small teams to design a robot that can be manoeuvred to pick up objects that include orange balls and square cubes. The robot can be driven with a controller, and it can also be programmed to work in an autonomous mode (without a driver). Each of these tasks takes place in a one-minute time period.

“Robotics and computer programming increasingly are becoming part of our everyday lives,” said Richard Parchment, education consultant for TechCayman. “This programme is designed to help kids understand and apply those concepts in a tangible, practical way. It is highly appealing to kids who learn and think ‘outside the box’, and a catalyst for those who may not intuitively grasp STEM concepts in a classroom setting. It’s exciting and gratifying to ignite the spirit of curiosity in kids here in the Cayman Islands.”

For more information, visit the 345 Robotics Club website, www.robotics.ky.