I am excited to be part of the 2020 Zimbabwe National Robotics Team that is participating in one of the world’s biggest challenges in robotics, the FIRST Global Challenge.
By Marlvern Chimbwanda (U6 Mufakose 1 High)
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology.” This robotics challenge, done the Olympic style, started in 2017 and Zimbabwean students have been participating since.
The 2020 team includes Ropafadzo Baera, L6 student at Tynwald High; Artwell Kumbirai, U6 at Mabvuku High; Mitchell Musadziruma, L6 student at Tynwald High, Tariro Chiadzwa, L6 at Glenview 1 High and myself Marlvern Chimbwanda, U6 at Mufakose 1 High and the team captain.
It is a great honour to represent my country where over 170 countries are participating. FIRST Global is more than a robotics challenge as we have acquired so much experience, technical and soft skills.
“It has made me more aware of my surroundings I really didn’t give much attention to what is around me but, now when I see a problem I try to think about how I can improve the situation using the resources around me,” said Ropafadzo.
The challenge has helped me to become growth-minded, thinking outside the box and seeing problems as challenges, not obstacles.
I am a very technical person, I spend my time tinkering with robotic components but here I am writing an article, a skill I have started to work on since I became part of FIRST Global. It has taken me out of my comfort zone but I am ready for the challenge.
I think it speaks more of the interdisciplinary nature of STEM, particularly robotics. So to my peers out there who may shy away from science and technology stuff, I encourage you to try it out, you may never know.
Experimentation will help you discover what you are good at earlier.
STEM education is igniting numerous essential talks and is an approach that dwells on one or more of the four disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
We are in an era whereby technical and scientific skills are evidently of paramount importance, especially when it comes to the development of our country, Zimbabwe.
STEM skilled personnel are of cardinal importance for the implementation of value addition, beneficiation, industrialization, and economic development efforts, the thrust of the government’s Education 5.0 approach.
We want to encourage our peers to engage in STEM activities no matter which field they are into, even if they want to pursue Humanities or the Arts.
STEM is something that one should be familiar with as it pervades every part of our life.
STEM education is really important because It helps us get prepared for the future because some of the jobs we are accustomed to will one day become obsolete as they will have been replaced by technology. So it is crucial for us to acknowledge that fact and take action now rather than later.
Although the format for this year’s FIRST Global Challenge is different because of the COVID-19 pandemic which means we cannot meet in person, we have managed to work on diverse sets of challenges – impact and technical challenges, technical training sessions and several others which help us explore our gifting and interests.
We have also had the privilege to listen to inspirational STEM talks from established scientists and engineers including one from the Founder of FIRST Dean Kamen a serial inventor.
To young people like me, you might be in Kambuzuma, Entumbane, Mkoba, Dangamvura, Mvurwi or Rujeko, wherever you are, I want to encourage you to start tinkering with what you have – find a dead computer shell and learn how it’s wired and constructed, familiarise yourself with science and technology using the resources around you.
If you have a broken iron at home open it up and play around with it as long as you do it safely. Do not just use Instagram and WhatsApp, learn how it works.
As a team, we are prepared to work with younger learners and train them on coding, robotics and leadership as a way to pass the baton forward.
We are incredibly grateful to our coaches and mentors for sharing with us their knowledge, networks and resources. We are sharing our journey in the robotics challenge on social media, our Facebook page “FIRST Global Zimbabwe.”
We will strive to be good which STEM ambassadors in our communities and work towards building the skills required for the prosperity of our nation.