Jamaica Gleaner / Every aspect of our lives, from transport and agriculture to manufacturing, is virtually dominated by automation. It was therefore a no-brainer when the leading manufacturer of baked goods in Jamaica, National Baking Company, through its foundation, extended support valued at $2.5 million to assist the Jamaica College (JC) Robotics Club. The Robotics Club is a co-curricular programme that has been competing in the International Robotics Competition, US FIRST since 2009.
Each year, teams of 20 or more high-school students and mentors are challenged to raise funds, design a team ‘brand’, hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots that weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg) to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. This they do while working under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. The competition is an opportunity for students to tackle real-world problems in an environment that inspires learning and sparks interest in various fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship.
The foundation gave the robotics team a tour of the bakery’s facilities, allowing them to see first-hand how many of the National staple items (bread, bun, biscuits) move from factory to consumers. It was also a way for the foundation to get insight from the youngsters on what repetitive job functions could be replaced by the use of robotics at their factories.
The way to go
Speaking at the handover, executive director of the National Baking Company Foundation, Christine Scott-Brown, said the foundation made the donation for the second year running based on where the world is heading in terms of modernisation and technological advancements.
“Robotics is simply the way we see things being done in the future, possibly right here in our plants at National,” Scott-Brown said.
Jason Brown, information technology teacher and robotics faculty adviser, said “the team is excited to head to New York in a few days.
“We have done our assessment of last year’s competition and we believe that we are in a great spot to take home the trophies this time around. The gentlemen are excited, the coach is excited, and I am excited. Go Jamaica College! Go Jamaica!”
The 13-member team, including the team coach and faculty adviser, will leave Jamaica for New York on Friday, February 16.