National robotics team prepares for Dubai

As the Cayman Islands National Robotics Team prepares to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge, the students visited the offices of Aureum Re, Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) and Health City Cayman Islands to learn firsthand about STEM careers available locally.

Dart Minds Inspired introduced FIRST robotics to the Cayman Islands earlier this year through a partnership with Aureum Re, CUC, Digicel, and Health City. Each company is associated with one of the STEM subjects: Health City represents science, Digicel represents technology, CUC represents engineering, and Aureum Re represents mathematics.

Dart Education Programmes Senior Manager Glenda McTaggart says the field trips are an important aspect of the National Team’s pre-competition curriculum.

“Our goal is to ensure the members of the National Team gain technical experience through designing, building and testing their robot, while also developing life skills through team-building exercises, and career development through in-person interactions with STEM professionals,” she says.

Powering Grand Cayman

The first field trip was to CUC’s headquarters where the students learned about the STEM-related careers available at Cayman’s only public electrical utility and toured its facilities at Industrial Park.

After an introductory presentation about CUC’s history, mission and values included videos showcasing the daily responsibilities of key staff members; the students boarded a bus to tour CUC’s main plant.

Led by CUC Manager Production Maintenance Corey Miller, the tour gave the National Team a behind-the-scenes look at how the electricity provider keeps the lights on using powerful diesel generators and the opportunity to see STEM careers in action.

National Team member Samuel White of John Gray High School says the field trip gave him a new perspective on what it takes to power Grand Cayman.

“I learned a lot but one thing that stood out was how substations are used to rectify - or step down - the 69,000V to consumers at 13,000V, then the transformers on the poles step it down to the 240V and 120V we use in our houses,” he says.

The students also learned more about opportunities for expanding renewable energy in Cayman and how the utility will soon be harnessing the power of natural gas in an effort to diversify its infrastructure.

Actually, that’s Actuarial Science

Next was the office of Aureum Re in Camana Bay where the students learned more about the reinsurance industry, and how mathematics and statistics are used to asses risk.

Although the number of reinsurance companies in Cayman is increasing, Aureum Re CEO David Towriss explained that there are only two Caymanians currently qualified as actuaries and that there are significant employment opportunities locally for young people who pursue a career in actuarial science.

National Team member Xaria Deosaran of Cayman Prep and High School says the visit inspired her to consider a career in the reinsurance industry.

“I really enjoyed the visit to Aureum Re because I got to learn about what actuaries are and what they do within a business,” she says. “It interested me as something I may want to do in the future.”

Transforming Healthcare through STEM

The students’ next stop was Health City’s extensive campus in East End where patients from across the globe come to receive high-quality, affordable healthcare.

The 101-bed hospital opened in 2014 to provide cardiac, cardiology and orthopedic services to patients throughout the Caribbean, bringing the dream of Narayana Health founder and renowned cardiologist Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty to the western hemisphere.

The National Team started its tour in Health City’s laboratory, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide hematology, biochemistry, serology, immunology, microbiology and immunohematology services. Next, they visited the department of Advanced Medical Imaging and Radiology Services where department head Dr. Sharath Babu showed the students how STEM enables doctors to produce 3D, digital reproductions of patients’ internal organs. The students then had the opportunity to go “back of house” with Chief Engineer Tyler Bell, where they saw the complex internal systems that keep the hospital running.

National Team member Nilakni Jayasekera of St. Ignatius Catholic School says her favourite portion of the tour was a presentation given by Orthopedics and Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr. Niranjan Nagaraja who demonstrated how robotics are used in joint replacement surgeries.

“It was pretty eye opening to learn about the many connections there are between robotics and medicine,” she says.

The tour concluded with lunch at the hospital cafeteria where the students also had the chance to meet Clinical Director and Senior Cardiac Surgeon Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil.

National Team member Craig Maitland of Clifton Hunter High School says the visit to Health City was a personal highlight: “My favourite field trip was the trip to Health City where we learned that being more technologically advanced doesn’t mean services have to be more expensive.”

The Future is Calling

At the last sponsor visit, representatives from Digicel stopped by the National Team headquarters to provide an overview of the company’s operations, discuss how machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the telecommunications industry, and see the Team’s robot in action.

Mobile Data Engineer Amit Debnath, and Engineer and Optimisation Specialist Rudolf Hoehler explained that mathematics and problem-solving are fundamental to careers in the telecommunications industry and took the opportunity to test-drive the Team’s robot.

Digicel Cayman CEO Raul Nicholson-Coe says young people today are living in a world of opportunity where technology is driving innovation that enhances quality of life.

“Not everything should be about money, it should be about how I can make my fellow man’s life better,” he says, explaining that the Digicel Foundation has invested more than US$130 million to promote social development in Haiti, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago.

Next Stop – Dubai

With their robot almost complete, the National Team is preparing to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in October, to participate in the 2019 FIRST Global Challenge.

To prepare for their trip abroad, the students also enjoyed a visit from Water Authority - Cayman Water Production Engineer Ahmed Elsheshtawy who gave them an overview of his own career progression and an introduction to Arabic, the official language of the United Arab Emirates.

Themed around the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering identified by the National Academy of Engineering, the FIRST Global Challenge empowers young people to use STEM to solve global problems. This year’s theme - “Ocean Opportunities” - aims to draw attention to the ways in which ocean pollution negatively affect marine life and human health.

In the game, the Cayman Islands National Team will be randomly paired with two teams from different countries to form an alliance that will compete against another alliance of three nations.

McTaggart says the FIRST Global Challenge will be an interdisciplinary learning experience for the members of the National Team.

“This competition is about so much more than robots,” she says. “It’s about experiencing new cultures and places, meeting students from around the world, and being inspired to tackle global issues through cooperation and innovation.”

This year’s FIRST Global Challenge will take place from 24 to 27 October.

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