Students from schools all across the United Arab Emirates vied for top honours at the country’s inaugural FIRST® Tech Challenge held at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) from March 15-16. Eleven teams competed to design and create a robot which they subsequently entered into challenges with other teams.
Ranging in age from 12 to 18, participants at the event were guided by adult mentors and coaches and encouraged to use their creativity to find innovative solutions and designs, develop teamwork and foster critical and out-of-the-box thinking. After a hard-fought and fun-filled competition, team Rashid Bin Saeed from Rashid Bin Saeed School emerged as the winner of the two-day event.
‘Space’ was the theme of this year’s event with competing teams asked to create planet-exploring robots which competed in a game called ROVER RUCKUS SM, played on a 12’x12’ field. The robots were built from a reusable platform and were powered by Android technology, using Java or Blocky. The aim of the challenge was to inculcate teambuilding skills, coming up with creative solutions and ideas, making new friends and having fun.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Each year, more than 400,000 students from around the world participate in the various programmes. As the UAE marches on its path to building a knowledge-based economy, competitions such as these play an important part in encouraging the younger generation to develop their STEM skills and foster innovation and creativity.
Hosted by AUS in partnership with ATLAB – a technology-based learning solutions company and a division of the Centena Group – and the UAE Ministry of Education, the challenge featured Lockheed Martin as the event’s major sponsor.
Commenting on the success of the event, Dr Naif Darwish, Acting Dean of the AUS College of Engineering (CEN) and Professor of Chemical Engineering, said:
“We are pleased to have held the inaugural FIRST® Tech Challenge at AUS. The enthusiasm and interest of the participating teams and their mentors was key in making this competition a success. Over the two days, we saw bright, young minds work together in teams to develop creative and innovative solutions to challenges. The success of events such as this augur well for the future of the UAE and the region at a time when innovation, technology, critical thinking and STEM skills are becoming ever more significant ingredients for economic, industrial and societal success.”
ATLAB, which has partnered with LEGO Education, PITSCO Education, PASCO Scientific, SAM Labs, XYZ Printing, to bring its STEM and STEAM education solutions to all major schools in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC, along with training units for educators, also felt it important to help support such ventures in the country. Speaking on the occasion, Nilesh Korgaonkar , CEO from ATLAB, said: “The enthusiasm and innovation among participants at today’s event is ample evidence of growing interest towards science and technology. We are moving towards a generation which would be interacting at a much greater level with robots. Today’s youngsters need to ramp up their skillsets and innovation is the key mantra for the next generation to succeed. This competition is not just about robotics, but celebrating the spirit of teamwork. The coming years and decades will witness greater collaborative efforts yielding pathbreaking results. ATLAB has been a pioneer in incorporating STEM and STEAM learning in the UAE and the region. We expect more teams and schools to participate in the competition in the coming years.”
Robert S. Harward, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin, Middle East, said: “Lockheed Martin is proud to sponsor the inaugural FIRST Tech Challenge at AUS. As a global and regional leader in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), we are honoured to participate in a programme that seeks to unleash the creativity and innovation of students across the UAE to develop real-world innovation and team-building skills that will further develop a robust pipeline of talent across the region.”