JAM | Jul 11, 2024

Beulah All Age repeats top win at robotics competition

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Donovan Wilson (back row, right), president of the Union of Jamaica Alumni Association joins Jamilia Crooks-Brown (left), programmes administrator of NCB Foundation and Dezion Duhaney (back row, left), project assistant of FIRST Tech Jamaica Challenge Jamaica to admire the robotics work done by New Day Primary students (from second left to right) Nicholas Harvey, Kyle Garel and Zara Baxter at the FIRST LEGO League Championship. (Photo: Contributed)

Ten-year-old Zedane Young on last Saturday (July 6) won the First Tech Challenge Lego League Jamaica 2024 National Robotics Competition for the second year in a row.

An effervescent Young, who served as captain for the four-member Beulah All-Age School team, leapt in joy when the announcement came that his Longville, Clarendon-based primary school won the Champions Award.

“It feels good,” the aspiring pilot declared in a post-competition interview as he tightly clutched
the trophy. “We put in the work, and it came out on top.”

Blair Whittingham (centre) , sales and marketing lead strategist at Verb Communication in conversation with Dezion Duhaney (right), project assistant of FIRST Tech Jamaica Challenge Jamaica and Gavin Samuels, affiliate partner representative at FIRST Tech Jamaica. (Photo: Contributed)

Beulah All-Age walked off with the top prize in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-focused contest which targets primary and preparatory schools, and was held at the Assembly Hall on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.

Young’s school trumped 21 other robotics team entrants on the weekend to claim top honours, and
similarly emerged in that pole position at last year’s inaugural competition with nine entrants.

The school’s robotics club coach Kadine McFarlane was equally elated at Beulah’s victory lap.

It’s an awesome, beautiful feeling. The students truly worked. Preparation was rough, it was right during the time of the PEP exams for Grades Five and Six and that’s where most of our robotics club students were from. Even though we have others in the club, our strongest students come from those grades.

—Buelah All Age Robotics Club coach Kadine McFarlane

Of the intensive schedule that her Beulah students underwent to ready themselves for competition day, she recalled: “They created the robots and wrote the programs, it was not easy because oftentimes, they will try something and it worked once, and by the time they are ready again, one thing might throw it off by a millimetre but they kept trying, and persisted.”

The weekend contest — which called on scores of animated young students to build Lego robots and input program-coded functions to enable movement on obstacle courses — was sponsored by the NCB Foundation, the Jamaica Teachers Association, VerbCommunication, The Department of Computing at the UWI-Mona and the Union of Jamaica Alumni Association (UJAA).

Moving amid the open room layout plan of tables topped with assembled Lego kits and code-programmed machines with hyper-attentive students at the ready for the challenges, were Jamilia Crooks-Brown, Programme Administrator at the NCB Foundation and Donovan Wilson, president of UJAA, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

Blair Whittingham (right), sales and marketing lead strategist at Verb Communication looks on as St. Jude’s Primary students (from left to second right) Shaquasi Watson, Shawn Stewart and Jhonoi Knight discuss the program-coded qualities of their Lego robot in the FIRST LEGO League Championship. (Photo: Contributed)

Outlining his non-profit company’s organisation’s vision, Gavin Samuels, Tournament Director at FTC Jamaica said, “We started to introduce robotics in Jamaica in 2018, but this was mainly within high schools, so last year, we started a programme in conjunction with the NCB Foundation & UJAA to introduce robotics into primary schools. This is our second year. The LEGO kits that each team is building their robot from were sponsored by the NCB Foundation. UJAA member organisations sponsor many of the teams that are competing by contributing financially to offset other related expenses.”

Wilson expressed satisfaction with the organic growth of the competition.

“I was very pleased with the results of the day; to have grown from 9 teams to 22 teams. That’s a positive. I also feel like the youngsters who were involved are really catching on, and you are starting to see the progress in how they deliver,” he said

“I went around to all the tables, saw what they were doing and chatted to some of the students. The comments ran the gamut… they were very happy. Many of them had never set foot on the UWI campus before so it was a momentous occasion for them, as well as many of them were happy with what they were able to develop with limited resources and would like to get more resources so they can do better,” he added.

In addition to Beulah All-Age’s overall win, Pike Preparatory won the Robotics Performance Award, Brown’s Town Primary secured the Core Values Award and Immaculate Conception Prep was bestowed the Robot Design Award.


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