The Cayman Islands National Robotics team, made up of 11 students representing seven schools, competed in the FIRST Global robotics challenge in Dubai, United Arab Emirates 24 through 27 October. After completing nine matches over three days, the team finished 109 out of 190 teams with a total of four wins and five losses. In addition to their excellent work on the field, they also received two awards recognising their commitment to robotics through their preparation in the lead up to Dubai.

The team received the Mansa Musa Award for Fundraising, due in part to the sportsmanship displayed when they donated a portion of their fundraising efforts to help South Sudan and Djibouti get to the competition. Dart’s Minds Inspired worked with the students to design a Cayman Islands-themed robotics t-shirt which they sold to fundraise for their own trip. When the team learned about the two African teams struggling to raise enough money to travel to Dubai, the Cayman team gave US$500 to be divided by the two teams.

The second award was the Al-Khwarizmi Award for Outstanding Supporter. The support of the national team’s five sponsors – Aureum Re, CUC, Dart, Digicel and Health City – has raised the profile of robotics in the Cayman Islands and made it possible for the students to reach the competition. Dart Minds Inspired introduced FIRST robotics to the Cayman Islands earlier this year and its partners are each associated with one of the STEM subjects: Health City represents science, Digicel represents technology, CUC represents engineering, and Aureum Re represents mathematics. The sponsors provided the funding to bring FIRST robotics to Cayman and during the lead up to the international competition, the robotics team was mentored by the sponsors through a series of educational visits to learn firsthand about STEM careers available locally.

Themed around the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering identified by the National Academy of Engineering, the mission of the FIRST Global Challenge is to empower young people to use STEM to solve global problems. This year’s theme - “Ocean Opportunities” - aimed to draw attention to the ways in which ocean pollution negatively affect marine life and human health. During the competition, the Cayman Islands National Team was randomly paired with two teams from different countries to form an alliance that competed against another alliance of three nations. Over the three days, they were paired with Canada, Bahrain, Eswatini, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Honduras, Dominica, Luxembourg, Arabia, China, Puerto Rico, Papa New Guinea, Panama, Hungary, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Iran, Republic of Congo, Botswana and Lesotho, truly making it a global challenge.

The team also had the opportunity to learn about the rich culture and history of Dubai where they experienced a desert safari and Arabian Camp, took a bus tour to see old Dubai including its spice and gold souks, visited the Dubai Museum and explored new Dubai taking in the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.

FIRST Global robotics will continue in Cayman with the 2020 interschool robotics competition taking place on 1 February 2020 ,and after that the multi-school 2020 Cayman Islands National Robotics team will be selected. The theme is "SKYSTONE," a partnership with the charity arm of “Star Wars,” and teams will design, build, test and programme robots to perform a series of tasks including building a tower, moving stones and maneuvering under a sky bridge. Students who are interested in joining their school’s alliance should speak with their science or IT teacher.

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