Over 800 Student inventors defied the STEM gender gap this week, convening in the District to compete in the world’s first international robot contest for high schoolers. With the provision of access to clean water as the overall theme, 163 teams from 160 countries, including continental teams, all made up of students ranging from 15 to 18, fought to win the First Global Robot Challenge 2017.
FIRST Global, a leadership program sponsoring kids interested in STEM, aided nearly 160 countries in sending student teams and the robots they designed to the two-day competition at DAR Constitution Hall in the District. Jose Escotto, communications director for FIRST Global, says the organization prioritizes giving women the tools to take their place confidently in the technology field.
First daughter Ivanka Trump arrived at the competition Tuesday morning to congratulate the six all-female teams from the U.S., Ghana, Vanuatu, Jordan and Afghanistan on their work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
“For many of you who have traveled great lengths to be here, we welcome you. It’s a privilege and an honor to have you all with us,” Ms. Trump said.
Despite language barriers, a spirit of camaraderie and a passion for robotics joined the students together. In fact, many competitors went from table to table with plastic balls or T-shirts for opposing teams to sign as mementos.
However, the high schoolers maintained motivation for a higher purpose — to bring positive change to their communities.
Seun Omotayo, Tawa Giwa, Fetisimi Adegbamigbe, Ayodeji Umar, Toluwalase Agoro, Ayomide Adetunji, and Niyi Talabi represented Nigeria at the First Global Robotics Challenge 2017, the first robotics olympics in the world, which held in Washington DC, U.S.
“We are Robo Teens from Nigeria!” Team Nigeria’s bio says. “We are a team of robot enthusiasts, consisting of four boys, three girls ages 15-18, and three coaches. Our team inspiration is based on our goal to make our country great and to better understand the advantages of collaboration both within and outside of our country.”
The team leader, Toluwalase Agoro, a student of Oxbridge College, said before the competition:
“I have always been interested in robots. It’s a new way of doing things; it’s a more efficient way of solving problems. All over the world, scientists have already started using robotics to build cars and other things; if we can apply that to other sectors, in Nigeria and elsewhere, it can help to make life easier. For example, if this year we are focussing on how we can use robots to solve problems related to poor access to potable water.
It has been fun, but very challenging. We went through a lot of designs before we came up with this design. And for each design, we worked hard to develop it; there were some we dropped, before coming up with this current one. We encountered many challenges, but we were able to cope. We have done most of the work now, but we are not relaxing. We started building this in January. At this stage, we are now developing the programme which would work on the robot.”
Team Nigeria was coached by Remi Willoughby, a Robotics Instructor and Educator who served as the national coordinator of the programme in Nigeria.
The robot competition is to be an annual event in a different country each year with a different theme — like the Olympics athletic games, according to FIRST Global.