The 13-member Jamaica College Robotics Team put on their best Usain Bolt impression after winning the prestigious and coveted Inspire Award, the highest award, at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Relic Recovery Challenge in New York City. The Inspire Award is the top award given to teams at the FTC Championship. It is given to the team that is the best example of all-around excellence, acts as a strong ambassador, and is the best embodiment of the spirit of the US FIRST program.
The robotics competition is conducted in recognition of the fact that all aspects of modern life are dominated by automation. In support of this reality, the National Baking Company, the leading producer of baked goods in Jamaica, provided $2.6 million in aid to the Jamaica College (JC) Robotics Club through its foundation.
The club, a co-curricular program, has competed in the International Robotics Competition US FIRST since 2009. The annual competition challenges teams of high school students and their mentors to raise funds, design their team brand, polish their teamwork skills and then build and program industrial-sized robots weighing up to 120 pounds to play a difficult game against competitors. Strict rules govern the competition, and teams are subject to limited resources and a time-limited six-week period of intense work. The competition provides an experience as close to real-world engineering as students can get. Students are guided by volunteer professional mentors. The FIRST Championship is conducted at the end of each season.
The foundation of the National Baking Company gave the Jamaican team a tour of the bakery facilities, which let them see in person how many of the firm’s staple products move from the factory to consumers. The foundation used this opportunity to get input from the students about which of the repetitive job functions might be replaced by robotics at the factories.
According to Jason Brown, information technology teacher and robotics faculty adviser, the JC team assessed last year’s competition and felt it was in a good place to take home a trophy in 2018. JC won the challenge in 2013. Javaughn Thompson, President of the JC robotics club, said that during the two years he has been a member, there has been “exceptional” growth in the team’s skills.
Brown went on to say that the JC team is an underdog in the competition, coming from a Third World country and working with a limited budget. This has caused the team to improvise in its fund-raising, he said, and expressed thanks to corporate Jamaica, especially the National Baking Company Foundation, for its support.