Every year over 100 countries come together at the FIRST Global Challenge to compete for the number 1 rank and coveted spots in various categories with awards. Last year in October, this increasingly popular “Olympics” of robotics took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Annually, the competition brings together future STEM leaders with different technical skills, expertise, mindsets, and cultures to address issues such as water pollution, and climate change, to persuade governments and organizations, to embrace STEM education.
Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and established FIRST Global as a US-based not-for-profit public charity. Since the first annual international challenge in 2017, the competition FIRST Global has been inviting teams of young people aged 14 through 18, from every nation.
Last year the challenge focused on the issue of pollution which our oceans face mainly due to human activity. Marine life is adversely affected by pollutants. Teams from different countries worked in groups, called alliances, using robots to move particles from a body of water which represented pollutants in the ocean. In 2018, the challenge centered on “Energy Impact.” Competitors explored the impact of the different types of energy we use and how we can make them more sustainable.
Last year three Caribbean countries were ranked in the top 50 overall: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, and Bermuda placed 35th, 39th, and 46th respectively. Team Belarus, Team Moldova, Team Norway, and Team Hope (a team of refugees) were champions of the challenge. Competitors from 191 countries battled in various matches. At the end of the competition, awards were given to the teams who exhibited certain qualities. From the Caribbean, Teams Guyana and Jamaica received awards.
Team Guyana won the gold medal for FIRST Global’s most prestigious award, the Albert Einstein Award for FIRST Global International Excellence. This award was given to the teams who displayed professionalism, significantly impacted the international community, and acted as ideal FIRST Global role models. The winning teams of this award also had the best performing robots throughout the challenge. Teams Tunisia and Germany won silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Team Jamaica was among the three teams that won the Katherine Johnson Award for Engineering Documentation. The team took home the bronze medal. This award was given to teams who effectively documented how they built their robots. Team United Arab Emirates and Team USA were awarded the gold and silver medals, respectively.
We interviewed a few team members from different countries who expressed their thoughts on their unique experiences at the FIRST Global Challenge, where they gained useful skills.
“FIRST assists in developing my problem solving and computational skills. To collaborate with persons of different cultures in an arena, to solve the difficulties of the world, is beyond amazing,” Stephanie Simon, who represented Guyana, expressed.
“FIRST Global was one of the most formative experiences of my life. It helped me to diversify my experience in programming while developing my social and leadership skills and also my sense of self and culture,” Avidesh Marajh, from Team Trinidad and Tobago told us.
Petr, a member of Team Czechia, mentioned that “it is the friendliest competition I have ever been to. It inspired me by showing lots of solutions for the same issue and that there is always room to improve.”
We also heard from a member of Team Israel.
“FIRST’s program is improving my leadership skills and also my creative skills. I am part of something huge and international, and I am really grateful for the opportunity,” Noa Duman expressed.
For updates on the FIRST Global Challenge, check out FIRST Global’s website.