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UCCI STEM Conference is back

Cayman Conversation 23 Oct, 2023 Follow News

UCCI STEM Conference is back

Antoinette Gayle

Tracey Hargrave

The incredibly well-supported STEM Carib conference at UCCI is back this November following an unfortunate hiatus of three years due to Covid. Anyone interested in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – especially young people, should head to the UCCI from 1 to 3 November, where a huge array of activities and events will be taking place. Cayman Conversations this week speaks with UCCI’s Tracey Hargrave, Dean of STEM and Health, and Antoinette Gayle, Assistant Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry and also the STEM Co-ordinator, to find out more.

This year’s UCCI STEM conference is entitled: Game Changer Time to Level Up, and will be providing Cayman’s youth with an holistic overview of some of the foremost happenings in science right now and how these changes are impacting the Cayman Islands, and, crucially, how they can become involved in this incredibly exciting sphere.

Ms Hargrave said the UCCI had held the conference frequently in the past but had had to call a halt over Covid, so they were really pleased it was back and that it would include many breakout sessions and speakers.

The conference caters primarily to students in the Cayman Islands, up to tertiary level, but they also have breakout sessions geared towards the community as a whole, and have breakout sessions which are hands-on, interactive sessions geared towards children at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.   

The impressive, all-female line up of speakers includes Dr Martha Williams, who was born in Cayman Brac and who has worked in NASA for decades and who is now retired and who continues her journey as a scientist.

“We are so excited to hear her story from Cayman Brac to NASA and back,” Ms Gayle advised.

Other speakers include Aditi Joshi, a Google Leader and AI Powerhouse and Vanessa Slowey, a Global tech Trailblazer from Digicel, as further exciting plenary speakers.

Ms Gayle confirmed that the plenary sessions would be informal and the breakout sessions would be interactive, in order to captivate the imagination of the young minds in attendance.

“The students actually get to engage with the material and get their hands dirty!” she said. “They get to build robots, they get to play with liquid nitrogen, they get to be doing AI they are going to do lion fish dissection, it’s going to be amazing an amazing event.”

Ms Hargrave said that there was going to be such a wide range of activities at the event that there would be something for everyone, no matter what they were interested in.

“We have even got somebody talking about steam, navigating with the stars, many lion fish dissections, they are also very popular,” she advised.

Ms Hargrave said young people today had a lot more available to them in terms of exposure to STEM topics, especially with an event such as this completely free event. The schools are all involved and all sending their students.

Ms Gayle talked about a particularly well supported sector of the conference, that of robotics. The robotics at the STEM conference involve students understanding how robots work, getting the chance to build robots, and engaging those robots by programming them to get them to carry out particular functions, she said. It allows them to be able to see how important it is to send correct instructions in the correct way to ensure the robots to carry out the tasks, she furthered. Students will also get to see how AI and robots work together.

The UCCI STEM Carib conference aims to provide an integrated look at such STEM topics, putting them altogether in one place, showing young people how it all works together, so, if they want to work with robots, they need to know how to build them, how to programme them, how the parts work together, to understand the engineering and how to communicate with robots, she explained. There is also a competition and the winners get to carry home their own programmable robot, Ms Gayle advised. 

The plenary and breakout sessions will take place on 1 and 2 November and on 3 November there will be an open day with a Rotary Science fair presentation for students who won the fair and they will have the chance to come and present their workings. That afternoon, the conference is open to anyone without registration who just want to come in and play with robots and learn more about the STEM activities.

Sponsors include the Ministry of Education, CUC, Enterprise Cayman, Health City Cayman Islands, who collectively help the UCCI to put on the conference free of charge.

Go to UCCI to see all the amazing activities planned: www.UCCI.edu.ky  or reach out to agayle@UCCI.edu.ky


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