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Team Seychelles gears up for FIRST Global Challenge in Singapore   |19 September 2023

Team Seychelles gears up for FIRST Global Challenge in Singapore   

Team Captain Jaeden Ernesta (left)

The world of robotics is gearing up for an exhilarating showdown as the annual FIRST Global Challenge approaches, set to take place from October 6-10 in Singapore.

Among the contenders vying for the top spot, Team Seychelles is fuelled by unwavering determination and an unshakeable spirit.

Under the banner of the Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Team Seychelles is composed of a dedicated group of students, ranging in age from 14 to 17. The team comprises five core members, supported by an additional six students, one volunteer, and seven mentors, all of whom are passionately committed to representing Seychelles on the global stage.

The core team, fortunate to have the support of generous sponsors like FIRST Global, Children’s Special Fund, PRINTIT, and Cable and Wireless, has their accommodations and flight tickets fully covered.

The core team members include Jaeden Ernesta and Carl Loizeau from Anse Royale secondary school, Shalini Raja from International School Seychelles, Adrian Hoareau from Belonie secondary school, and Gabriel Suzette from Anse Boileau secondary school. They are the driving force behind Team Seychelles' quest for excellence.

The supporting team is equally crucial, with members Slok Vithani, Archana Serasinghe and Zia Adam from International School Seychelles, Denis Hoareau from Belonie secondary school, and Keanu Barreau and Jason Nderitu from Perseverance secondary school.

The volunteer contributing her time and expertise to the team is Annie Yang from International School Seychelles.

Team Seychelles has a rich history in the FIRST Global Challenge, having participated since 2017. Over the years, they have demonstrated their resilience and commitment to the field of robotics. In 2020, they ranked 47 out of 175 in a virtual competition. In 2021, they further improved their ranking, reaching 17 out of 177 in another virtual event. The last physical competition in 2022, held in Switzerland, saw them achieve a commendable 38th place out of 162 teams.

This year's FIRST Global Challenge, officially named ‘Hydrogen Horizons’, presents a thrilling set of challenges. It requires two three-team regional alliances to independently engage in producing, storing, transporting, and converting hydrogen into other forms of useful energy. The culmination of the competition involves these alliances coming together as a Global Alliance to showcase each nation's achievements in hydrogen technologies.

The match begins with robots positioned next to their respective alliance stations, with a reservoir containing randomly positioned hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the form of water (H2O) at the centre. For the first two minutes, each regional alliance works tirelessly to extract water from the reservoir and break the bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, unleashing the potential of this vital element.

The path to victory is complex and multifaceted, with the regional alliance accumulating points based on various factors, including their proficiency in the tasks and their ability to cooperate with other teams. The alliance with the highest score at the end of the game emerges as the winner.

As part of the 2023 FIRST Global Challenge, teams have the opportunity to engage in the Social Media Challenge. This challenge involves showcasing their active participation in the event, including outreach efforts and meetings with leaders. More importantly, it serves as a platform to raise awareness about the significance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and how it has profoundly impacted the lives of team members through their participation.

This Social Media Challenge is structured into eight distinct parts, each with its allocated timeframe: Team Meetup (5 July - 13 July): Teams are encouraged to organize joint meetups with other FIRST Global teams, preferably from different continents. These meetups facilitate cultural exchange, discussion of common misconceptions, and the sharing of experiences. Teams then share their insights on social media using the hashtag #FGBOR, aligning with FIRST Global's Bill of Responsibilities.

Picture Perfect (14 July - 25 July): Teams are tasked with creating a global portrait of all participating teams. By sharing a group photo creatively illustrating kindness and respect for other teams, they contribute to a collective collage. Specific guidelines ensure uniformity in the photos.

Kit Capture (Within 10 days of receiving the kit): Teams capture the excitement of receiving their 2023 FIRST Global REV Robotics Kit of Parts. They document the unboxing and exploration, incorporating creativity and cultural elements. These moments are shared on social media and submitted for the challenge.

Full STEAM Ahead! (26 July - 9 August): Teams are encouraged to pass on their STEM knowledge and experiences to other youth through outreach sessions in their communities. These sessions can take various formats, from workshops to interactive demonstrations. Teams must provide summaries and data on participation and impact.

Tech for Good (NTE) (10 August - 23 August): Teams showcase their innovation developed for the New Technology Experience: Energy Evolution. They create videos or share photos and descriptions to demonstrate how their projects can benefit society.

Lead the Way (24 August - 5 September): Teams connect with their country's leaders and diplomatic representatives to garner support for expanding STEM opportunities among youth. These outreach efforts aim to engage government officials and promote STEM education.

Show of Support (30 August - 6 September): Friends and family of team members demonstrate their encouragement through short videos, cheering, waving flags, and dancing to support their team's journey in the 2023 FIRST Global Challenge.

In the News (8 September - 19 September): Teams strive to gain media coverage highlighting their participation in the competition and the importance of STEM education. They pitch their team to media organisations and share the resulting coverage.

Lights, Camera, Action (12 September - 20 September): Teams record a video where they passionately express their commitment to FIRST Global's Declaration of Interdependence and Bill of Responsibilities. These videos are compiled into a promotional video to be featured at the Opening Ceremony.

Seychelles NATION had the chance to speak with the entire team to be able to garner their thoughts and feelings ahead of the competition.

Jaeden Ernesta, 15, who is Team Captain, is feeling confident but said that things have been stressful and has had its up and down moments. “We always try our best to go back on track,” he stated. “Right now we are slightly behind schedule and we are trying our best to finish it so we have more time to practice and get a good placement this year.”

In order to make the team work properly and efficiently, Jaeden explains that the team is divided into different sections for each team member to focus on one aspect, such as two people working on the coding and then there are the all rounders who figure out the actual robot itself and build it up. Then there are team mates who work on the documentation.

“We just divide the team into different groups, if there is one part which we find very hard, for example different sectors of the robot, we make small groups to make some people do certain things to try and be as effective as possible.”

Despite facing certain difficulties, Jaeden is 100% confident that by October the team will be ready.

“I hope we do well, because we worked very hard on the robot and for the drawbacks we faced, working more intensively has fixed most of them so far. For example, the lift is broken right now so we are trying our best to focus on that, we still take breaks but we try and keep them at a minimum so we can just finish this part. If that part is finished, we know we can actually rest now, we do not have to worry that much about it.”

In regards to the robot itself, he conveyed that the robot has to be built from practically scratch, from the materials that FIRST Global allocate, so that the tasks can be accomplished. He noted how every single year has been becoming significantly harder so there is the need to really concentrate on the building procedure of the robot.

He explained that the team is currently heavily dependent on the drivers and they are trying to keep the things that the human players can do which can be performed better rather than having to code the instructions.

“I feel that practicing more is going to be way more effective than just creating something that is developed in a short period of time and is not reliable.”

His mental aspect heading into the competition is constantly thinking about how to perfect the robot and how to improve on it. “I am constantly thinking about how are we going to do better this year than all the previous years.”

He stated that if Team Seychelles does get first place, it is going to motivate him to take a career path in robotics because he finds it very interesting. Originally, he joined the team because his love for robotics has always been something that he cherishes. “If we do get first, I will be extremely happy.”

In response to whether or not he would recommend others to do this competition, he responded by stating that it will take a lot of sacrifices.

“You are going to take a lot of time. If you are thinking you are going to spend your vacation just having fun, doing all sorts of things that are not really going to help you, you might as well just forget about these things. You are focusing on the robot, that is your main priority right now. In the end, if you find it interesting, you are not sacrificing anything.”

This is not the first time that Jaeden has entered this competition as he did so last year among the supporting team. He discussed that last year’s team had very intelligent people, and just seeing them work on the robot was very motivating and inspiring.


Sunny Esparon

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