As the curtains came down on the first staging of the International Gaming Technology Jamaica (IGT) Coding and Robotics Rock! Camp on August 19, 16 Jamaican youth walked away with a new set of tech skills to unlock doors of possibilities for themselves in this digital era.
The Jamaican youth were among 36 youth participants from the Caribbean who were deeply engrossed in the two-week groundbreaking virtual tech camp which got off to a stirring start on August 9.
The IGT Coding and Robotics Rock! Camp is the latest educational outreach of the IGT through its flagship philanthropic initiative, the IGT After School Advantage Programme (ASA). Lessons were presented by the highly skilled team at the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI) located at The University of the West Indies, Mona.
During the camp, teens from several IGT ASA sites across the island were logged in on Zoom, clicking away with enthusiasm as they engaged in a digital journey into the disciplines of coding and robotics.
The remaining participants from selected IGT ASA Centres in Barbados, St Kitts & Nevis, St Maarten and Trinidad & Tobago were joined by Jamaican youngsters from Sunbeam Children’s Home, Spring Village Development Foundation & Training Institute, SOS Children’s Village – Stony Hill, Mustard Seed Communities – Jerusalem and Mary’s Child Home along with the Women’s Centre Jamaica Foundation – Mandeville and Sav-la-mar.
All 36 participants accessed the daily sessions by utilising state-of-the-art computer centres and equipment which have been provided and maintained throughout the Caribbean since 2011 by IGT – the renowned leader in gaming technology.
Brendan Hames, regional director for IGT in the Caribbean, said the camp showcased IGT’s innovative character and equally responded to calls from the region’s governments for more investments in STEM education.
“We believe in technology. It is at the heart of what we do at IGT. The purpose of these ASA Centres is to open doors of digital opportunity. It is to bridge the digital divide that exists in our communities. We want to see Caribbean youth empowered and understand that, with technology, there are no heights impossible.”
Hames continued: “The future is digital and the IGT Coding and Robotics Rock! Camp offered each of these students an opportunity to maximise the use of technology so that they will know how to navigate the digital economy, learning and professional spaces which are being presented to them today and which they will see more of, emerging out of a global pandemic.”
MGI, the partnering educational institution for this initiative, developed a robust and engaging curriculum from which the students were taught. This was done with expert guidance from Dr Nalini Ramsawak-Jodha, education specialist and STEM educator at the UWI, St Augustine campus.
Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, director at MGI, said that, in designing the curriculum, his team was very careful to make it practical and relevant to the social reality of the participants.
“We were committed from the onset to make this training relevant to the youths’ needs. It was a no-brainer to have a child development specialist on board, giving us the relevant advice to complement our exciting lineup of coding and robotics modules for our students’ development.”
He added: “We know that these skills will give them the competitive edge they need in this time of the fourth industrial revolution where those who are not technologically savvy will lag. We made it interactive for them and are pleased that it all ended on a fun and empowered note.”
“Many questions were forthcoming in the Zoom chat and the camp’s WhatsApp group from IGT ASA Centre supervisors on behalf of students who encountered difficulties, but so too were the quick responses by the MGI representatives who were determined that no student would be left behind. Each student has received a certificate of participation for their engagement in this first-of-its-kind Caribbean tech camp hosted and fully funded by IGT.”