by Derrick Scott
NEW YORK – A 10-year dream came true for Jamaica College Old Boys’ Association of New York (JCOBA-NY), after the Association launched FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) at the alma mater in Kingston.
The robotics program based on the globally recognized FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) standards came to fruition in spectacular fashion March 8-9 in the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium on the JC campus.
JCOBA-NY leadership had introduced the program to Jamaica College back in 2009, entering the pioneering JC team in the New York City FTC competition in 2010. It marked the historic entry of a Caribbean secondary school in the world’s premier robotics competition.
Subsequently, JCOBA-NY labored for years with the FTC Jamaica objective in mind – organizing schools, educators, private sector, government and community organizations at home and abroad around the vision of a Jamaica National Robotics Championship.
In 2018, the ambitious goal came within reach when JCOBA-NY orchestrated an affiliate partnership agreement with FIRST® for the JC Foundation to be its Jamaican affiliate partner.
Edward “Teddy” Alexander was appointed Advisory Board Chairman to execute FTC Jamaica, with Gavin Samuels named as the affiliate partner representative for Jamaica. “In Jamaica, our focus tends to be on traditional careers. There is an incredible amount of talent in this country and our children love to use technology, so it’s essential that we provide them the opportunity to hone these skills and expose them to new, technology-based opportunities in the STEM area,” noted Alexander.
JCOBA-NY’s work in creating the foundation for FTC Jamaica extended to securing the initial financing as well as assembling and initiating a solid group of potential FTC-eligible participant schools: JCOBA-NY forged a partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to support STEM education initiatives – securing a pledge of JA$50 Million in financing for STEM and robotics programs
A Ministry grant seeded FTC Jamaica – enabling the acquisition of robotics kits for 20 high school teams, and JCOBA-NY led the critical work to organize and initiate schools on FTC requirements.
Over a 10-month period leading up to the FTC Jamaica National Championship, JCOBA-NY onboarded and educated 22 schools to meet the challenge of the FTC initiative
“I applaud the leadership demonstrated by our entire executive team in the relentless pursuit of sparking Jamaican innovation. I also salute the work done by the FTC Jamaica local leadership team in executing a near-flawless event despite the many challenges that arose along the way,” said Carl Bennett, the JCOBA-NY president.
“FTC Jamaica’s future depends on the support and endorsement of the local community. The entire JC school community embraced its robotics program, supporting it steadfastly throughout an astonishingly impressive 10-year campaign as JC Robotics racked up a host of accomplishments on the international stage,” Mr. Bennett concluded.
“Given the remarkable success of JC, it’s gratifying that JCOBA-NY has expanded the pool of Jamaican minds invested in the global technology movement. This enhances Jamaica’s position on the world stage and boosts its place as a nation committed to technology innovation,” said Lowell Campbell, JCOBA-NY board chairman.
JC Robotics Program Highlights
- Won 16 FTC international awards and advanced to five (5) World Championships – including 2019
- Inspired a broad cross-section of Jamaica from their student peers to the Prime Minister
- Vastly increased the competence of JC students in STEM and technology-based applications
- Provided a platform for students to earn college scholarships and pursue STEM-related careers
- Recognized globally as the pre-eminent high school robotics program in the Caribbean
- Sparked national interest in STEM as a critical element to enable innovation and 21st century skills