Department Of Youth Uses Robotics To Chart A New Technology Course for ‘unmatched’ Youth In Guyana
Director Of Youth, in the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Melissa Carmichael and the very capable support team of young people who work to oversee the success of the Department’s programs, have committed to providing the ‘unmatched’ youth of Guyana with opportunities, which will allow them to prepare for the technology future, which awaits them.
Unmatched youth are mostly out of school young people, 14yrs or older who are unemployed and who find themselves without job skills or the requisite knowledge of how to obtain the skills they need to be successful and to make a meaningful contribution to the development of Guyana. To that end, the young Director and her team have implemented three technology programs, which are being carefully monitored and managed for their value and effectiveness. The three technology programs are inter-related; they are the Youth Innovation Project, the Cyber Guyana project and the National Robotics Project being implemented under an MOU agreement with STEMGuyana.
Director Carmichael shared that, “our robotics program is close to my heart, the program demonstrates that our young people are talented beyond our imagination. They are also informed and incredibly smart. They have been a part of society that has been tormented by social issues and yet they continue to come up with solutions and ideas that I believe will make a great impact one day. Robotics provides opportunity for these unmatched young people to bring alive their creative skills and talents. When they attend STEM club, they are creating, learning, and awakening a spirit that has been dead in far too many for far too long and so much can come out of that.”
Department of Youth Robotics
Under a partnership agreement with STEMGuyana and in collaboration with the Ministry Of Public Telecommunication for use of the ICT hubs, an army of 42 youth volunteers has been trained in STEM club management. The trained teams are certified STEM club leaders and possess expert knowledge in robot building and programming, MIT Scratch coding and teaching the STEMGuyana lesson plans. The Department Of Youth team will support more than 35 STEM clubs in MPT built, ICT hubs across Guyana, some of the Youth volunteers also support STEM club activities at the more than 6 libraries now involved in the National “Reading & Robotics” program and will assist in supporting the additional 7 libraries yet to be rolled out before the end of the first quarter of 2019. STEMGuyana and the Department of Youth will continue to work in partnership to ensure the success of this national program.
Department lead for the program, Ms Alicia Pompey shared that, “ I like the robotics program because the traditional idea that the teacher is always right, doesn’t work here. Robotics gives young people the opportunity and scope to ask questions, and to challenge the status quo. It develops soft skills and encourages them to work together as a team. It is heart warming to see the students rally around each other to come up with solutions. “
The Department of Youth undertaking is huge and ambitious and from early reports, extremely successful. When the program is completely rolled out, thousands of young people in more than 50 clubs across nearly every region of Guyana will be impacted in some way by the existence of these programs.
What Are The Youth Saying?
Department of Youth volunteer, Tracey-Ann Massey, when asked to share her thoughts about the robotics program stated, “after I noticed how one session changed the behavior of one reluctant, introverted child. I thought to myself, if one session can have such an impact, imagine what impact we could have with a national program. In our club, no idea is a stupid, no question is stupid, our young people are encouraged to speak up, engage and explore and the results are amazing.” Massey further continued, “Our robotics program was an innovative decision on the part of our ministry. I also love the fact that it gave me the opportunity to shine, to think, to be confident. I’m so enthused about the program that I’ve introduced it to my church.”
Marvin Drakes who is responsible for Central Operations of the Department’s robotics program says his major role is support. He travels around to visit the hubs to help resolve problems and assist the robotics team to ensure great delivery of service. Drakes stated that, “ my exposure to robotics began here at the Ministry and I find it to be more than just a fun activity. It became a source of enlightenment for me. It was amazing to see how it made young people work together, how it inspires ideas, and how young people organized themselves into groups to get the work done. STEM and robotics are the future for young people in Guyana. We’ve been at a great disadvantage in Guyana and in too many places we are still using old methodology and thinking. Today, because of robotics, I think more outside the box. Ideas can come from anywhere and we need to ensure that all of the nation’s children are equipped to contribute to the pool of ideas, which will help to develop the nation. What I’ve been looking for I found in robotics.”
Department Of Youth Volunteer and Dream Team member Racquel Todd-Inniss stated that, “before completing our training, I was skeptical. I wondered what was robotics going to do for me? But I never give up on challenges and thus far, I can tell anyone that I’ve learned so much since completing the program. I’ve also come up with many ideas, which can benefit my community. Many of my peers are discouraged and shy, and reluctant to share their ideas, but having completed this robotics program, I have improved my pubic speaking and self-confidence. Living in this world that is so advanced in technology, I think everyone should do something to use technology to prepare themselves for the future.”
Judine Welch-Peters who has completed robotics training and who is also coordinator for region three’s programs stated that, “we will soon complete the rollout of robotics programs in LaRetraite, Canal #1 and Wales and we currently have programs in progress at Bagottville, Salem, Parika and Hyde Park. I found robotics to be interesting from the beginning. When we first started, I was a bit skeptical, but in a short time the benefits became obvious. It was also clear to me that our school children, once exposed, were gravitating to robotics and its benefits. I see the change in their self-confident, and self-esteem at the end of each session and I find that very encouraging.”
The Department of Youth currently offers robotics programs at ICT hubs in Berbice, Corentyne, Port Mourant, Cane Grove, Kildonan, Parika, Salem, Hyde Park, and Essequibo. They also help to support programs at the STEMGuyana club at the Racquet Centre and libraries at Ruimveldt, Salem and Central Georgetown. STEM clubs also exist at the Linden Library, Salem library, Bagotville Library and Kuru Kururu library.
The future of Guyana looks bright with young people like Director Carmichael and her team of robotics ambassadors making such a significant contribution to Guyana. Asked for one final comment, Ms Carmichael stated that, “Guyana’s children will continue to reap the benefits from our partnership with STEMGuyana and the Ministry of Public Telecommunications. I believe the nation will be better off because of our collective contribution”
For more information on training to be a Department of Youth Robotics volunteer, please contact Ms Alicia Pompey, c/o Department of Youth, Ministry of Social Cohesion.