Some of the ‘heavy hitters’ in the corporate sector along with First Lady Sandra Granger have lined up alongside the National Library’s “Reading & Robotics” programme which Coordinator Karen Abrams says has the potential to become a game-changer as far as the trajectory of the country’s education system is concerned.
Earlier this week, during an interview with Stabroek Business, Abrams named the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company (GTT), ExxonMobil, Troy Resources, Power Producers and Distributors, and Noble Seafoods as being among the private sector entities that have joined forces with STEM Guyana and the Office of the First Lady to roll out the programme which will commence at the National Library and will extend to other libraries across the country later this year, once the facilities are put in place.
“What is significant about this project is the fact that it signals that there exists a keen corporate sensitivity to the importance of ‘reading and robotics’ as key developmental tools. I believe, too, that we are fortunate enough to have a First Lady who understands what we are seeking to achieve for the education system through programmes in areas like Robotics. Frankly, it is important that we get this to work. It can be a real game-changer.”
The curriculum for the “Reading & Robotics” programme has been designed by Stanford University students and customised to integrate with components of the Ministry of Education’s Science curriculum. To date, the curriculum has integrated science concepts explaining simple machines—the lever and the pulley, the principles of force, gravity, energy, friction, circuits, and much more.
Abrams said that the support of ‘big players’ in the private sector now better positions STEM and robotics enthusiasts across much of coastal Guyana to have “gatherings that have a sense of purpose to them.”
Much of the training will be handled by STEM Guyana’s ‘Dream Team’ with a training and launch schedule that will include the Ruimveldt and Linden libraries. Those initiatives will commence on Saturday January 19th. The initiative will be launched at branches in Buxton, Corriverton, Litchfield, New Amsterdam, and Salem, at a rate of two launches each Saturday through the months of January and February, Abrams told Stabroek Business.
She added that the remaining libraries will be added to the roster as and when their security, internet access and other relevant facilities are upgraded to accommodate the programme. “Frankly, we are pushing to ensure that the lag in rolling out the programme at all of the centres is not great. Our aim is to realise the widest possible access across the country. Now that the programme is about to be up and running at some centres, our primary focus will now be on readying the remaining centres.”
Abrams, who was decorated with the Golden Arrow of Achievement in October last year for her services to education in the fields of robotics and STEM technology told Stabroek Business that it was definitely an encouraging sign that simultaneously, the government, primarily through the Ministries of Education and Public Communication and sections of the private sector are showing a positive interest in STEM technology and Robotics. “The fact that there are serious curriculum possibilities for these disciplines as far as our schools are concerned is a small but significant step for us as a country.”
Asked about a time line for the roll out of such programmes across the country as a whole, Abrams told Stabroek Business that while she was not ideally in a position to pronounce on that issue, she had surmised from the level of interest in STEM technology and robotics that was in evidence “at the very highest levels” in Guyana, “in both the state and private sectors”, that there was a determination “to go forward with the technology. “It will take funding as much as focus but I believe that we are not in a bad place at this time.”
In July 2017 an inexperienced Guyana team pulled off a major surprise at a Global Robotics Challenge in Washington DC placing 10th overall. The team, whose attendance at the tournament was organised by Abrams, had received widespread support from Guyanese, both at home and abroad, many of whom followed their progress in the competition.