Saturday, July 15, 2017

FIRST Global: Robot challenge promotes STEM education around the world

"Robot challenge promotes STEM education around the world, even in least-developed countries

Don’t expect to see pole vaults, balance beams and diving boards when some of the world’s brightest young minds come together this month in Washington for what sponsors are calling the first international robot olympics.

With an impressive global turnout, and a little political controversy, the event will feature high school computer programmers, complex electronics and what organizers are calling “cooper-tition” — cooperation and competition — among participants.

Teams from nearly 160 countries and six continents are set to gather at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington starting Sunday to participate in three days of games designed to test their ingenuity and promote STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — as a field of work for everyone, including those in the world’s least-developed countries.

As a bonus, it will satisfy the passion young people have for building robots.
Scores will be based on how well the robots are able to pick up and deposit balls in specific places, as well as how they hang from a bar that lines the staging area. Manipulating the balls is meant to simulate solutions for separating contaminated particles from water and then delivering the water to a “reservoir” as quickly as possible — part of a larger engineering challenge of providing safe, drinkable water to countries around the world.

Like the official Olympic Games, the Washington gathering has not been free of political controversy, with both the Gambian team and an all-girl team from Afghanistan finding their original visa applications denied by the U.S. government. After a spate of publicity, the teenage members of the Gambian team were approved for visas, although Mucktarr Darboe, the team’s mentor and director of Gambia’s ministry of higher education, research, science and technology, will not be allowed to accompany them..."

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