By Christopher Tobutt
TechCayman, a Cayman-based technology facilitation company, teamed up with Cayman’s ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) to bring a two-day Robotics Flash Camp to 12 of Cayman’s children. The kids are aged between 9 and 11 and have been identified by ARK’s Mentoring Education and Reinforcement programme as needing a little bit of extra help. So taking part in building and operating robots is a great way to boost their self-confidence, and let them know that they can do just about anything they put their minds to.
The Robotics Flash Camp is a two-day version of a longer three-month robotics camp, and it gives the kids a taste of what it is like to construct, design, and solve problems while working with adult volunteers who help them achieve their goals. Robotics is all about how to make real-life robots that really work, and can be programmed to do specific tasks such as pick up blocks and drop them in exactly the right place. The kids create the robots from kits called VEX IQ, gradually making them come to life. When they do that, they will learn about engineering and math too (but without even knowing it because they are having much too much fun!)
Jennifer McCarthy, TechCayman’s Operations & Business Manager, said, “We are very focused on ensuring that the children of the Cayman Islands have an opportunity to explore robotics. They tend to not realise they are learning math and science but it gives them a great tool, great confidence and great camaraderie. For this particular group we have partnered with Tara Nielson from ARK, and we have invited her group of children to explore this. So we have put together a Flash Camp as a way of introducing the concept, seeing if they have some fun and if they have some interest in coming back for a longer robotics camp.”
Programme Coordinator Kendra Morris said, “Learning about the very fundamental principles of robotics are all related to scientific and mathematical principles, and so by teaching kids about robots and programming and the concepts involved, what they really do is learn about the principles of engineering.”
In another room, some of the kids, each working with a partner, are figuring out exactly how to put the VEX IQ robot together so that it can do exactly what they want. “I am trying to get my robot to turn around and move these blocks them and place them carefully ….but not yet because I am not finished,” said Miska, one of the Flash Camp attendees.
Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure Joseph Hew was helping the kids with the robots. “I want to thank TechCayman and Acts of Random Kindness for putting this on,” he said. “There has been a lot of talk about Cayman becoming the Silicon Valley or the Caribbean, and so these are the building blocks of starting that movement and I think in the future we can grow the opportunities we see for these kids and others. So I look at the confidence of these kids here and the fun they’re having while they’re learning, and I think, ‘it’s just a fantastic programme.’”