JIS News

Brilliant displays of innovations in science and technology shared centre stage with cultural performances, at the first national Jamaica Day celebration held last Friday, February 22, in Trelawny.

While the gala event unfolded on stage and on the stadium field, with vibrant presentations in song, dance and poetry, schools from the Ministry of Education’s six regions mounted exhibits, showcasing how they have transformed theory into practical innovations.

The schools competed under the Jamaica Day Theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaica: I’m On It’.

At the end, it was a dead heat, with regions one and four taking top honours in the vigorously contested match-up of creative minds.

Former director of the Culture in Education Programme, and one of the judges for the competition, Hugh Douse, told JIS News that he was impressed with the quality of the displays. He said regions one and four could not be separated in the final positioning of the teams.

“The regions showed us where we are going in technology and that’s what the theme is about,” he said.

Mr. Douse also commended schools that mounted exhibits on Jamaica’s heritage, saying that these displays were also of high quality.

Aquaponic System

The Aquaponic unit mounted by Knockalva Agricultural School in Hanover was among the highlights of the winning display by region four. It was a scaled-down version of the solar-powered sustainable food production system located on the school grounds in Ramble.

Explaining how the unit works, head of the school’s Agronomy Department, Bertram Bennett, said rainwater is harvested and channeled to overhead storage tanks, and then gravity-fed to two greenhouses where vegetables are grown.

The unit, which integrates fish farming with waste water from the ponds, is used to fertilise the crops.

The system, that was conceptualised by the agricultural educator, was built in 2010 through $2.71 million in funding from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) and international donor organisation, Small Grants.

JC’S Robotics Display

Meanwhile, the winning technology display from region one featured a robot built by a team from Jamaica College (JC).

JC’s Robotics Team has copped a number of awards for its prowess in this area of science and technology.

On March 8, the team will participate in the highly-anticipated annual United States First (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition, scheduled to take place in Manhattan, New York. The JC team is the only competitor from outside of the United States.

“Every year, we enter the competition in Manhattan, which promotes youth innovation and competition. Each year there is a new task. This year, we were told to make one (robot) that picks up rings,” explains fourth form student and team member, Gavin Smith.

Members of the team, who showed off their robot made of plexi glass, motors, gears, and batteries on Jamaica Day, are confident the school’s entry will do well in New York. The confidence is well-placed, as the team placed 12th out of a field of 72 participants in 2011, and third in last year’s competition.

“This year, we are practising more than last year, so this year, we are planning to win,” an excited Paul Ponall, team member and upper sixth form student tells JIS News.

Mimio Studio Classroom

The practical demonstration of the educational software programme, the Mimio Studio Classroom, by teachers and students from Windward Road Primary and Junior High, was also a hit on Jamaica Day.

Information Technology (IT) teacher, Omar Neil, tells JIS News that the system is a valuable instructional tool. Mimio Studio Classroom, which facilitates interaction with a Mimio pad and electronic white board, is used at all grade levels at the school.

“It allows you to create your own lesson plan. Also, one of the benefits of the Mimio View is that it can record the lesson to enhance reinforcement,” he said.

“All the gadgets used can operate as stand-alone devices, but are good when used together,” said Mr. Neil, who pointed out that all teachers are trained to use this system.

The Mimio System is available locally from Coldax Mart, which also trains clients to use the technology.

The Windward Road school has seen positive results from the use of the teaching tool. Grade one teacher, Tanisha Montaque, told JIS News that the school has seen an improvement in literacy rates.

Outlining the effect of the technology in the classroom, she says, “it creates a different environment. Everyone wants to participate. They grasp it so easily. It sticks with them and is better than chalk and talk.”

The Kingston-based school, last year, won an award for its application of the technology in the classroom in the high school segment of the ‘Flow in My School’ technology competition.

The Ministry of Education’s region one comprises institutions in Kingston, St. Andrew and Western St. Thomas; region two entails in Eastern St. Thomas, Portland, Eastern and South Eastern St. Mary; region three involves Western and Central St. Mary, St. Ann and Trelawny; region four encompasses St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland; region five covers St. Elizabeth, Manchester and North Clarendon; and region six takes in Clarendon and St. Catherine.