A long time ago (last year) in a galaxy far, far away (the Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Centre), eight teams of intrepid students deployed their custom-built robots to retrieve samples of silver and gold Unobtainium, a rare mineral found only on the barren Planet X. 

This year, the students and their droid allies are tasked with a different mission: building towering structures that will climb into the skies.

On 1 February, Dart Minds Inspired is set to recreate the out-of-this-world experience of the inaugural FIRST Technical Challenge with an interschool robotics competition called “Skystone." 

Dart Education Programmes Senior Manager Glenda McTaggart says Skystone will bring together students from Cayman International School, Cayman Islands Further Education Centre, Cayman Prep and High School, Clifton Hunter High School, Grace Christian Academy, John Gray High School, St. Ignatius Catholic School and Triple C School.

“I am very excited that all the schools that participated in last year’s Rover Ruckus were eager to take part in Skystone,” McTaggart says. “The teams received their kits in September and have been working to design and build their robots ever since.”

This year’s competition challenges the students to create robots that can collect, transport and stack blocks to build a superstructure of the future. Throughout the event, the teams will be randomly paired to form alliances. McTaggart says the style of the FIRST Technical Challenge prioritises teamwork and sportsmanship.

“FIRST is more than robots," she says. "It’s about the development of social, ethical, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies in young people through STEM."

Dart joined forces with Aureum Re, Caribbean Utilities Co., Digicel and Health City Cayman Islands to introduce FIRST robotics to the Cayman Islands, a partnership that McTaggart says has been renewed for 2020.

“We chose our sponsor partners based on their commitment to promoting STEM education in the Cayman Islands,” she says. “They went above and beyond last year, and we are delighted to partner with them again for Skystone.”

As it did last year, the national tournament will serve as a pre-qualifier for selection to the National Team that will represent the Cayman Islands at the FIRST Global Challenge. Last year’s team of 11 students chosen from high schools across Grand Cayman brought home two awards from the challenge in Dubai.

The Skystone competition is free and open to the public, and will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday 1 February at the Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Centre.