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A student from the Wolmer’s Boys’ school uses a Textrix Robotics Kit to build a mobile robot. This was a project from the school’s robotics club, where they are exposed to technological innovations, coding, and software development.
Photo: Contributed

Students attending the Wolmer’s Girls’, Boys’ and Prep schools have been given an opportunity to explore and innovate in an autonomous robotics programme.

The programme, which is led by the Wolmer’s Technology Committee (WTC), emphasises Coding and Software Development, Fabrication, Sensors and Electronics and Simulations.

This summer, students can participate in an internship course hosted by the WTC, to create and programme an autonomous robotic arm to grill chicken.

“The robotic arm will pick up the chicken, put it on the grill, check the temperature, turn the chicken, and take it off. That is how we scoped it so far,” Hardware Design Engineer at Amazon Web Services and member of the WTC, Sheldon Provost, tells JIS News.

Mr. Provost, who taught several students across the three schools, says they will combine thermal imaging and computer vision, and artificial intelligence to build the robot.

Hardware Design Engineer at Amazon Web Services and member of the Wolmer’s Technology Committee, Sheldon Provost.

 

“We taught the students how to do computer vision, so they have a rudimentary understanding of how to do facial recognition, object recognition and things like that. We have two students who know how to weld on machines, so they’ll be the ones assembling the grill and putting together the arm,” he notes.

They are also assisted by engineering students from the tertiary level and will be aiming to complete the robotic arm by September 2021.

“The robotic arms are very expensive, so we’re going to print the robotic arm out of carbon fibre, because you’ll need a material that’s heat resistant to be able to turn the chicken and be around the grill. I’m trying to source the three-dimensional print and the materials for it right now,” Mr. Provost tells JIS News.

He says students were exposed to mobile, submersible and drone robots at all levels, because the Committee aims to integrate Robotics into the curriculum.

“We want students to be able to do their School-Based Assessments (SBAs) and Primary Exit Profile (PEP) projects with robotics. We want to introduce it and rudimentary coding as a part of general science,” he shares.

For his part, President of the Wolmer’s Boys’ Robotics Club, Nathan Gordon, says that while the club looks to revamp after the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it will be a space where scientific-minded students can express themselves.

“We’re about the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) fields, so we want to get more boys involved at Wolmer’s,” he tells JIS News.

Nathan says he wanted to use robotics in his SBA projects; however, because of the length of time it takes to make them, he missed the opportunity.

President and Chief Engineer of the Wolmer’s Boys’ Robotics Club, Nathan Gordon.

 

“We want to get this in all schools in Jamaica. We want to push Jamaica in that digital or technological era, especially in the education sector, because if it starts from there, then it can branch out into the other sectors,” he argues. 

Mr. Provost agrees that Robotics is incorporated in most industries worldwide, including the healthcare sectors to assist with drug delivery, patient assistance and robotic surgeries.

“I would argue that technology education, in general, has to be important because that’s where most of the jobs of the future are going and if you use some other countries as examples, like India, Taiwan and China, they have a very robust technology infrastructure and outsourcing of technology jobs,” he says.

Students from the Wolmer’s Boys’ Robotics Club build a mobile robot from a Textrix Robotics Kit, which they named, Jamaican Open Hardware Navigator (JOHN).

 

Mr. Provost is encouraging teachers and other stakeholders in the education industry to modernise the way teaching is done in the classroom, with the inclusion of technology topics.

“Students have been asking and requesting these projects for as long as I have been involved with Wolmer’s. You can argue that we are always resource-constrained because it is difficult to find funding, but the hard part is getting the faculty and staff on board and have them willing to do this,” he says.

Meanwhile, a 20-year-old engineering student from the University of the West Indies, Marc-Anthony Eaton, says educating Jamaicans on the importance of robotics will allow local industries to benefit from more innovations.

Engineering student from the University of the West Indies, Marc-Anthony Eaton, assists students from the Wolmer’s Boys’ Robotics Club to assemble a robot.

 

“The world is in a weird place. We’re in-between revolutions and moving from industrial to the autonomous, and I feel like if we work fast enough, we might be able to jump on the train and try to take advantage of it,” he says.

Mr. Eaton adds that persons should not be fearful of robots making their jobs redundant, but should instead recognise that robotics will create more job opportunities.

The WTC is tasked with improving the infrastructure of all Wolmer’s schools to enable a variety of digital services and introduce modern curricula to the students. Persons who desire to contribute to the project can visit their website https://www.wolmers.org/trust/support/ .

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