Local youths to participate in inaugural robotics challenge

A GROUP of local secondary school students hopes to ignite the passion of more young Bruneians in science and technology leadership and innovation through their participation in the inaugural robotics challenge for high school students worldwide organised by First Global in Washington DC, United States next week.

The dynamic team of seven students, with ages ranging 15-18 from different secondary schools nationwide were selected by a panel of Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) lecturers in March this year and were convened a month later to prepare for the Olympics-style robotics competition from July 16-18, which will see the participation of hundreds of high school students from 160 countries.

First Global is a US-based non-profit charity organisation and its maiden annual international robotics challenge for high school students aims to build bridges between high school students with different backgrounds, languages, religions, and customs. They also aim to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world through its robotics challenge.

By bringing these future STEM leaders together in an engaging and collaborative competition that drives home the importance, excitement, and applicability of STEM education, First Global hopes to inspire students to learn the skills they will need to make the discoveries their parents and grandparents would consider miracles, impossibilities, or just plain science fiction.

First Global also strives to convince the various national governments and organisations of the world to embrace STEM education, and to support it by investing in their young adults that will soon begin to make their marks in the world.

A mentor of the group, UTB lecturer at the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department Sharina Yunus said that they have received sponsorships from several companies to make their participation possible and hopes that more will come forward, especially in empowering the young bright minds of the country for our future development.

She hopes that by assembling and mentoring the young Bruneian robotics team to participate in the competition, it will pave way for more awareness on robotics sciences among young Bruneian students and ignite more interest among them, as she feels that its development in the country is often not well known of. “We want this to be a start to cultivate more awareness on robotics among Bruneian students, to inculcate the mindset earlier among them and from their participation, we want to keep this going by conducting sharing sessions with other schools and we want this to be an annual participation from Brunei,” she said.

In the competition, teams from each countries are provided with kits to build a robot that they will showcase and use during the official game of the 2017 First Global Challenge, H2O FLOW!, which revolves around the theme of access to clean water.

This year’s robotics challenge will reflect how all levels of society and countries need to cooperate as a global society to solve the water crisis. Teams representing over a hundred countries will be organised into two competing alliances, each alliance composed of three national teams that rearrange into different alliances for each match. These alliances are tasked with accomplishing engineering tasks such as the storing of drinkable water, filtering of contaminated water, and procuring of new sources water.

In the game, the teams learn about real-world water scarcity and contamination issues through a real-life simulation of two villages that exist on either side of a contaminated river. The teams will compete to create and store purified water in their respective reserves. In a laboratory up stream, the villagers come together to research the contaminants and ultimately create a purification system so contaminants are removed before they reach the villages, thus providing clean water for all. In the end, each village prepares for the coming flood by searching for higher ground.

One of the leaders from the Bruneian team, Iffah Wirdani binti Azman, 16, from Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Girls Arabic Religious Secondary School said that since April, they started with prop robots for practice earlier and have ever since gained momentum on manoeuvring the robots and also building the robots with the help from their mentors. “It didn’t come without any challenge but it was pretty smooth overall and right now we are just finalising the product and hopefully we will finish it by this week,” she said.

Another team member, Syasya Jamain, 15, from Jerudong International School said the journey benefited all of them because they weren’t all too familiar with the world of robotics at first. “Through this we learnt the importance of it and how it really benefits a lot of people and how we can help contribute to society,” she said.

Both Iffah and Syasya said they have always had an interest on mechanical and robotic science since they were young but never thought that they would enter a competition like this.

They also mentioned that interest about robotics in their school is very limited and people rarely talk about it but hopes that with their participation they hope to widen the understanding and make people know the importance of this technology and how it exists and will continue to grow for the future.

First Global hopes that by empowering the young minds of tomorrow through STEM, countries would help accelerate economic growth, and obtain secure and peaceful livelihoods for their nations and said this will require the collective efforts of individuals, corporations, governments, and nonprofits willing to invest in STEM education and infrastructure.


Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.