It’s Sunday morning and I’m reading about Zambia training 350 teachers in MIT Scratch Programming, and they did it in just one day. I’m also reading that in Kerala India, 60,000 students were trained in a 2 day session in Scratch programming, they in turn will be expected to train 1,000,000 of their peers.
In what seems like every town USA, the training in robotics, Scratch programming and other programs that introduce computational thinking and creativity at the most fundamental levels of primary education have been ongoing for years. Robotics education has been a critical part of after-school activities in the USA for more than 15 years.
In spite of a myriad of challenges, STEMGuyana intends to partner with any willing public or private entity in Guyana, to bring these programs to all of the nation’s children, through after-school club and league competition activities. The vision is huge, the goals are laudable and the challenges are many.
What Will Be The STEMClub Activities?
STEMGuyana plans to co-sponsor, along with Ministry of Public Telecommunications and Ministry of Education, a nationwide competitive league for Scratch Programming & Robotics [using Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots]. While Guyanese students are new to the technology, we are confident that they will quickly master Scratch programming and Lego robot building and programming, Guyanese students are quite smart, we have already seen how quickly they pickup the technology in our past camps and pilot programs.
The partners intend to issue weekly challenges to all participating teams, through a fully automated league management interface. The challenges will be judged and graded each week and teams will be able to follow their points and standings at every round until a national winner is declared.
Why Are STEMClub League Activities Important For Guyanese Youth?
Programs like Lego Mindstorm and MIT Scratch teach computational thinking, problem solving, logical reasoning and innovative thinking in a fun and engaging environment. Not only will these programs help students to perform better in school, but they will also make students more aware of problems in their own communities, country, region, world and empower them to work on teams to fix these problems. The biggest win for students, schools, parents, Guyana will be students who are trained in project based learning, who will be prepared to quickly graduate to more complicated coding languages, who are skilled in communications and conflict resolution and who will develop a habit of fixing things. These are the skills Guyana will need to compete globally and to exponentially increase her rate of development.
Challenges We Continue To Navigate
STEMGuyana’s challenge has always been access to the resources needed to make the program nationally available. It has been the generosity of Guyana’s First Lady, Sandra Granger and about 100 [mostly] members of the Guyana Diaspora who have kept the program afloat. [Find them here]
A handful of local companies have offered support but support from larger companies has been nonexistent, and it hasn’t been for lack of asking. In no small way, several Ministries have supported the program and these include the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture; without their support, STEMGuyana would not have been able to efficiently execute on plans and we thank those ministers for their vision and support.
STEMGuyana’s Plans For Guyana’s Tech-Interested Youth
All young people in Guyana love technology, they love their video games, cell phones, tablets, and computers and they love instagram, facebook, snapchat, whatsapp and all the other applications that serve to make their worlds more exciting and more networked. But very few of our young people are curious about what’s going on behind their screens. We want them to know that jobs are behind those screens, companies are behind those screens, opportunities are behind those screens, billions of dollars are behind those screens and we want to encourage them and prepare them to investigate the world behind those screens and to participate in the innovation and technology economy behind those screens.
STEMGuyana is encouraging all interested young people to engage their school headteachers for permission to create after-school STEM clubs. We encourage them to begin fundraising to purchase at least 2 robot kits. We encourage them to download the MIT Scratch software and to begin to review tutorials to strengthen their skills in preparation for competition. The young people who are independent and curious and motivated will lead the next generation of innovators in Guyana and around the world and we encourage them to get started today.
STEMGuyana is currently preparing to reach out to headteachers in public and private schools and to existing after-school programs, community clubs and organization to encourage their participation in the upcoming STEM leagues. Our young people must be a part of the global movement of young innovators who will change the world. Preparation must begin today.