By Karen Abrams
Perhaps to a greater extent than their participation in Guyana’s first ever National Robot and Technology Exhibition last Saturday, I took my cue from the decision by an empowered group of STEMGuyana team members to spend the previous evening at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall readying the venue for what was to be an unprecedented experience. The 20 volunteers recruited online showed up, received their assignments and got down to business without the slightest discernable fuss. I want to say, in passing, that these young volunteers demonstrated the essence of what can be accomplished through motivation and I want to ask that parents, schools, the business community and the Government of Guyana do not miss this point. In the fullness of time and with the requisite support, these kids and thousands of others like them will place our country on their willing shoulders and take it forward. It’s up to us to lay the foundation to help them undertake that challenge.
On Saturday, First Lady Sandra Granger opened the event to hundreds of spectators. You get the impression that the First Lady is one of those people who goes about doing what she has to do in a decidedly unfussy manner and equally importantly, that she walks the talk. I have not always found that to be the case with my countrymen and women.
Inclement weather is not supposed to stop events like a country’s first ever Robot and Technology Exhibition. On Saturday the rain was placed ‘under manners’ (as we say in Guyana) by the crowd of youngsters who poured into the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
Even if I say so myself, the event was a resounding success. For me, it was not just the level of attendance. It was the novelty of the event, the fact that a new a critical discipline was being infused into the consciousness of a pioneering group of young Guyanese; it was the keenness with which active participants and spectators alike were taking it in. It was what they all left with and it was the fact that, inevitably, the seed that was planted there would grow. I insist that it was a success.
The people who came
People of all ages and from all walks of life showed up. Former prime minister Sam Hinds and his wife Yvonne were there with their young grandson. The energetic and evidently community-minded Councillor Malcolm Ferreira showed up with 50 youngsters from South Georgetown in tow. They received what were, in all likelihood, their first lessons in programming, creating apps, robotics and building with Legos.
Leaders from local technology companies showed up, some of them with their children. Young tech startup leaders from companies like weOwn Space and Intellect Storm showed up. Long-time STEMGuyana sponsor, Attorney Nigel Hughes put in an appearance as did GTT Chief Executive Officer Justin Nedd. GTT, incidentally, sponsored STEMGuyana’s earlier text messaging campaign. The company has promised to do more.
The overall atmosphere was positive. Excitement and wonderment were the pervasive. I believe that people from various far-flung communities are keenly awaiting the expansion of STEMGuyana into their respective necks of the woods.
The STEMGuyana initiative is a public/private sector/diaspora partnership. That is a message that we are keen to get across. We are keen, as well, to continue to train club leaders. We have already left robot kits behind in Guyana for those clubs. Those are intended to be building blocks to inspire and motivate members to engage with technology.
The results of the technology exhibition demonstrated that our one-year beta test was a resounding success. Plans are now in place to push our curriculum into every region of Guyana. Increased engagement with technology will consolidate the critical thinking of our young people and enhance their problem-solving skills. It will also arm them with tools to provide technology services, pursue technology careers, create technology companies and identify and help solve problems in their communities, regions and the country as a whole.