Nigeria will be represented at the FIRST Global Robot Challenges (FGRC) with 149 other nations thanks to efforts by Faisal Jarmakani, robotics enthusiast; Mrs. Remi Willoughby, an exceptional educator; and Professor Sola Sofola, emeritus professor of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos.
Founded by Dean Kamen, a philanthropic inventor, to inspire a passion for science and technology leadership and innovation among the world’s more than two billion youths, FIRST Global provides the framework for an Olympics-style robotics event that drives home the importance of obtaining the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills needed by future leaders to overcome the greatest challenges facing our world – today and tomorrow.
“By engaging the students of the world in a collaborative competition to help solve the world’s most pressing problems, FIRST Global inspires students to learn the skills they will need to make the discoveries their parents and grandparents would consider miracles, fantasies, or just plain science fiction,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST Global Founder.
Speaking at a press conference in Lagos to announce the readiness of the Team Nigeria to compete alongside other nations, Mrs. Remi Willoughby, national coordinator of the programme in Nigeria said, “We need to fully address the evident deficit in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in our educational system. Research has shown that children will rather take courses in arts and commercial subjects than these ones. Unfortunately this is not helping us. The government needs to find a way to encourage more students to take these courses in the secondary and tertiary institutions.” Speaking further, Willoughby said, “We have gathered some of the best students in robotics to represent Nigeria in Washington. These students were picked based on their interest and performances in past competitions in Nigeria and internationally. We look forward to an exciting outing.”
Faisal Jarmakani, managing director, Aramex Nigeria and co-sponsor of the First Global project in Nigeria, described the opportunity as “timely” according to him, “Nigeria needs to find its place on the global map of technology in developing countries. Without any doubt this competition will dictate the future of technology advancement and we are seeing it happen in our very own eyes.”
He hinted that the decision to co-sponsor, with his brother Omar Jarmakani, is based on the need to encourage the youth to embrace technology and robotics. “Thiswill further ignite their passion and bolster their skills - emboldening them to become mentors, advocates and professionals in the area of STEM in Nigeria.”
The students who are presently based in a tech studio were picked from different schools in Lagos.
Many of them have represented Nigeria in similar competitions in the past. According to Soga Sofola, emeritus professor of Physiology at the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, also a national coordinator of the First Global Olympics, the students have been spending time together since January, trying to master the rudiments of Robots design through tutorials in maths, physics and engineering including programming especially using Java, carried out by competent instructors. They have also started building their robots since the arrival of the components, a couple of weeks ago.
Concluding, Mrs. Willoughby said plans are in place to present the students and the entire First Global team to the ministry of science and technology at both the state and federal level.
Mrs. Willoughby reiterated that FIRST Global mission is to inspire science and technology leadership and innovation in young people from all nations in order to increase understanding, instil the importance of cooperation, address the world’s most pressing issues, and improve quality of life for all.
“This mission is accomplished through the FIRST Global Challenge, which culminates with an international robotics game that will rotate among different nations each year.
“By showing the youth of the world that if they communicate, cooperate, and work together using the tools of science and engineering to find solutions to the world’s grand challenges – water, energy, security, medicine, food, and education – they will be able to accomplish great things and become part of a truly global community”.
Mrs. Willoughby said she foresees Robotics’ impact be felt in the critical sectors like Agriculture and manufacturing in Nigeria.
According to her, “Why should the government and other stakeholders care about events like this? We are in the world of automation. We have seen driveless cars, hotels managed by robotics; back home, we need robotics in agriculture and manufacturing”.