A robot designed to pick up carbon dioxide with a conveyor system, and that also needed a gate to release carbon dioxide in the form of black balls, named Robot Downey Jr., helped the St. Augustine’s College (SAC) squad to a 138th-place finish out of 163 participants at the 2022 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Global Challenge.
SAC, which was in its fourth appearance at FIRST Global, improved its robot with the implementation of new techniques and new ways to modify parts to better fit the design, according to Terrance Pratt, head of the English department at the institution.
“They also showcased new methods of manipulating game pieces, and the team got inspiration from a crop harvester which proved to be effective this year,” said Pratt.
Dereo Maycock, Sonet Archer, Tanae Johnson, Tyler Cambridge and Zyontae Adderley, members of the school’s Robotics Club, comprised the squad to the October Geneva, Switzerland, challenge.
SAC’s Robotics Club is a club dedicated to learning the various aspects that S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math) has to offer, mainly revolving around coding, engineering and, of course, robotics.
The team built its robot, “Robot Downey Jr.” over a two month-period under the supervision of faculty advisor and math department head, Rickert Fraser. The team members sacrificed many of their summer days to build the robot and ensure that it was ready for the competition in October.
Pratt said competitions such as the challenge are important as it gives students exposure and allows them to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations.
“Competitions also expose students to ideas from around the world, especially since The Bahamas is a small country where our exposure to such events are limited. Our students need to expand their views of science and be a part of the solutions to the world’s pressing problems, especially since The Bahamas, a low-lying nation, is one of the nations that will be most impacted by climate change.”
He said competitions also motivate students to sharpen their skills and compete with the best of the best.
“As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron,” said Pratt.
The 2022 FIRST Global Challenge revolved around the theme “Carbon Culture”. The goal of the competition was to find methods to prevent the frequent release of carbon in the atmosphere and to find sustainable ways to capture and contain the carbon all together.
FIRST Global is an organization that focuses on various tactics and methods to combat the rising climate crisis and other environmental issues through the use of STEM and robotics.
Dereo, 17, the team’s captain, described his experience at FIRST Global as “laborious and stressful” but said he has no regrets about having attended the conference.
He has a “great interest” in all aspects of STEM as an aspiring engineer. He is a builder and robot designer on the team.
Tyler, 15, described the competition as a great learning experience, and said it was one that added to his engineering skills and opened his eyes to the many great engineers around the world and the great inventions they have made such as particle accelerators the size of towns that lie beneath a city and lasers that can be used to precisely discharge lightning clouds.
He has a strong interest in the functionality of the robot components and robot design. As the builder on the team, he is also a hobbyist and skilled electrician that also builds and solders custom keyboards. He is an aspiring mechanical engineer and computer scientist and intends to take on both fields of study in college.
Zyontae, 16, said he was proud to have represented The Bahamas on an international level while learning more about robotics and other cultures.
He has an interest in software engineering and computer science and wants to fulfill his goal of being a specialized computer scientist. He is highly intrigued with STEM and takes any opportunity he can to learn more about it. Zyontae participated in the 2019 FIRST Global Challenge in Dubai.
Sonet, 17, agreed that the competition was stressful and added that she learned that she has to work hard to accomplish anything relating to robotics.
The aspiring engineer has a special interest in aerospace engineering along with aerodynamics. She enjoys programming and is currently learning Java along with Block coding. She was the programmer on the team.
Tanae, 16, has a long-time interest in robotics, which she said was sparked after reading about a fictional character who built computers and other gadgets for a tech company. A builder on the team, she specialized in precise measurements and constructions.
Tanae said she would like to build life-improving gadgets as a hobby in the future.
The FIRST Global Challenge is an Olympics-style international robotics competition that takes place in a different country each year. FIRST Global invites each nation to send a team to build and program a robot to compete. Teams work together to complete tasks in a game themed around one of the greatest challenges facing the planet in an effort to foster understanding and cooperation among the youth of the world as they use their abilities to solve the world’s problems.
Stephan Walkin of the school’s guidance department and Vandricka Rose, the computer science teacher, traveled with the students as chaperones.
The Geneva First Challenge competition was the fourth competition in which the team competed.
Previously, SAC teams competed at FIRST Global competitions in Dubai in 2019, China in 2018 and Washington, D.C. in 2017.
Previous robots SAC has showcased include Choo Choo, which was debuted in 2017 in Washington; the robot showed a strong 64th-place performance in a 163-strong field from 157 nations and six continental representatives.
Through the FIRST Global competitions, SAC students have been exposed to how transformative STEM can be in a changing world through their participation in the FIRST Global Challenge, which seeks to encourage and empower youth with a passion for the subjects, develop their skills and equip them with the tools necessary to contribute to shaping the future.
FIRST Global’s mission is to inspire leadership and innovation in youth from all nations by empowering them through education in STEM.
By nurturing cross-cultural communication and cooperation among high school students around the world through STEM, the hope is to empower them to collectively tackle the world’s most pressing challenges and come up with solutions that improve quality of life for all. The FIRST Global Challenge is their mechanism for doing so. By bringing future STEM leaders together in an engaging and collaborative competition that drives home the importance, excitement, and applicability of STEM education, FIRST Global is using robots to build kids that have the self-confidence, skill sets, imagination, courage, and vision to do important things.
FIRST Global also strives to convince the various national governments and organizations of the world to embrace STEM education, and to support it by investing in their young adults who will soon begin to make their marks in the world.