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Members of the winning Calabar High School FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge team (from left): David Lynch, Tyrique Murray, Joel Tulloch, Raheem Ford and Alex Hutchinson posing with the robot that landed them the award.
Photo: Donald De la Haye

Story Highlights

  • Calabar High School has won the 2020 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge for institutions in Jamaica.
  • The competition, which is open to high-school students between grades seven and 12, requires the participants to design, build, programme and operate robots and compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.
  • The victory for Calabar, which topped the 30 schools participating in two days of competition, culminating with the announcement on February 29, represents the institution’s first in a major robotics competition.

Calabar High School has won the 2020 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge for institutions in Jamaica.

The competition, which is open to high-school students between grades seven and 12, requires the participants to design, build, programme and operate robots and compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.

The victory for Calabar, which topped the 30 schools participating in two days of competition, culminating with the announcement on February 29, represents the institution’s first in a major robotics competition.

The team will now advance to the competition’s international round, which is scheduled for Texas in the United States of America (USA), in April.

The members include Captain and Student Engineer, Joel Tulloch; Student Public Relations Officer and Driver of the Robot, Jeremy Bonfield; Student Engineer, Rory Allen; Student Electrical Engineer, Raheem Ford; Student Programmer, David Lynch; Student Driver, Tyrique Murray; Student Engineer, Alex Hutchinson; and Student Engineer, Devein Peart.

Members of the winning Calabar High School FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge team (from left): David Lynch, Tyrique Murray, Joel Tulloch, Raheem Ford and Alex Hutchinson posing with the robot that landed them the award.

 

One of the competition’s objectives is to help students develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and practise engineering principles, while realising the value of hard work, innovation, and teamwork.

In addition to designing and building robots, the competition requires teams to raise funds, design and market their brand, and undertake community outreach to earn specific awards.

The victorious Calabar team received a rousing welcome and applause from Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge, as well as students and teachers, as they entered the institution’s Chapel for the weekly devotional exercise.

Mr. Terrelonge said he was elated to see the innovativeness being displayed by the boys, against the background of the onset of the technology-driven fourth industrial revolution.

“We are very proud of them. The students at Calabar have set a great example for all young men, not just at Calabar but our young men in Jamaica. Having won the Inspire Award, Calabar has shown that they have made great improvements in STEM,” he stated.

State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge (right), congratulates teacher and mentor for the winning Calabar High School FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge team, Debbie Meek, during a visit to the school on March 2.

 

The State Minister noted that Calabar has “demonstrated the importance of becoming innovators of technology”.

“As a society, we must not only be consumers of technology, but we must now become innovators of technology. That is the future. That is how we are going to build a modern economy which has a base in technology in the fourth revolution,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Terrelonge applauded Calabar for making it mandatory for each grade-nine student to be involved in robotics.

“Every grade-nine student at Calabar has to do at least one hour of robotics each week, and we have seen them take the theory of robotics, and what they have done in their classrooms to the competition in which they have won,” he pointed out.

Teacher and mentor for the team, Debbie Meek, said winning the competition came as no surprise to her.

“We had to chronicle our journey. Every day that we met, we had to document what we did, what were our objectives and what achievements we’ve made. We did that with pictures to show and we did outreach as well,” she pointed out.

Ms. Meek said she believes their outreach activities assisted them with scoring good points.

“The outreach is very big. We went to our neighbouring primary school twice, Dunrobin Primary School, and on Jamaica Day [February 21] we went to Freetown Primary School in Clarendon, where we showed the students how to use our robot. We went to the Caribbean Maritime Institute, Immaculate Conception High School and Jamaica College and partnered [as well],” she told JIS News.

Ms. Meek said the students are deserving of the award, because they had major challenges leading up to the competition day, which they worked hard to overcome.

“On Friday, when they [the organisers of the event] called us, we were in the first batch for robot inspection and we were to hand over our engineering book, but our book was not ready. We went to the printery [and it was not printed] and I explained to the judges that we had some challenges, as the file was too large and it needed to be edited,” she said.

Additionally, Ms. Meek said the document could only be stored in one software on one computer, which she and some team members were up late on the Thursday editing.

“The captain [of the team] had to download it on one laptop and each participant took turns in editing it. Four of us stood up on Thursday night editing the book to meet the deadline,” she recounted.

The vision behind incorporating robotics at the school was one Ms. Meek, a science teacher, proposed in 2014 after attending a five-day biannual education summit with Loma Linda University.

She said the old boys also helped with establishing a robotics club at the school, and also with it being interjected into the curriculum at the grade-nine level, adding that she is now happy the school is reaping benefits.

Team Captain, Joel Tulloch, said he and the members are elated with the victory.

“It’s a great feeling to have done so well for my club and my school. I am looking forward to winning again in Texas,” he told JIS News.

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