Bots and bionics


Over the last five years, the organisers of the annual Barbados Junior Robotics Camp have seen a greater number of students expressing an interest in participating, but they admit they need more institutional support to help the science of robotics grow throughout the region as a whole.

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual Barbados Junior Robotics Camp held at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Daneilia De Silva, Assistant Director of the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), told Barbados TODAY, “We have 66 campers this year, up by 16 students over last year. But we had to turn down about 20 students as we were oversubscribed. It hurts us to do that since we see there is a growing interest in the field, and this camp offers an avenue to get into it.”

She added that as a non-profit organisation, the CSF sought sponsorship every year to keep the camp going, and eventually wanted to offer it throughout the Caribbean. “Our challenge every year is to secure sponsorship to grow the camp more. We generally get good support from businesses here in Barbados, and we have UWI and the Caribbean Examinations Council on board, but we will need more to achieve our ultimate goal of replicating this camp across the region.”

Interim Executive Director of the Foundation Professor Cardinal Warde wants to see educational institutions develop a greater willingness to take the process his organisation has started to another level. “We look for needs that are unmet and unfilled in the STEM field and help to fill those needs. Our goal is to ignite the process and hopefully, the University or Ministry of Education or another Government agency, someone else in Barbados with more horsepower than us, can pick up where we left off and make these things sustainable.”

The Caribbean Science Foundation is a US-based non-profit organisation made up of West Indians living in the diaspora with an interest in promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The Barbados Junior Robotics Camp was held over the past five weeks and caters to children between the ages of 10 and 18. Professor Warde, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, noted that robotics was a great way to introduce children to basic scientific principles.

“The nice thing about robotics is that it involves a lot of different sciences. Of course, there is mathematics, but there is also physics, an element of computer programming; there’s no biology now, but that may come in later. It’s a good way to get youngsters hooked on science as it brings so many disciplines together.”  (DH)

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