STEM Guyana welcomes focus directed to ICT, Robotics

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STEM Guyana Founder Karen Abrams

FOUNDER of STEM Guyana, Karen Abrams, has said that she welcomes the initiatives outlined in the 2019 National Budget that are geared towards the development of youth through technology.

Speaking exclusively to the Guyana Chronicle, Abrams said: “I do believe that the government has focused on bringing technology to young people… and providing resources that will help to prepare them.”

Among these moves to provide the nexus between young people and technology, Finance Minister Winston Jordan highlighted that there is the exemption from Value Added Tax (VAT) on Educational Robot Kits, in order to boost the `Reading & Robotics’ programme directed to children in communities all across Guyana.

Also, more hinterland communities– including Kaikan, Paruima and Jawalla in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and Kato in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni)–will be connected to the e-governance network through the installation of Information Communication Technology (ICT) hubs.

The co-founder noted that expansion of the ICT hubs would be “extremely helpful” to the work being done by STEM Guyana.

In fact, it was reported that from December, STEM Guyana will be engaging in training sessions for out-of-school youth in Regions Two, Three Six and 10. These sessions, according to Abrams, will see members of the Department of Youth being trained by the organisation in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Robotics and Coding/computer programming.

Abrams explained that this training relies on use of the ICT hubs, which have been a huge boost to delivery of services in these areas.

“A lot of work needs to be done, but for 2019 we have some more resources [to do the work],” Karen related.

Added to the measures being provided, government is also exploring the possibility of integrating a greater extent of technology into the education sector.

In fact, Minister of Education Dr. Nicolette Henry told this newspaper: “We will be introducing robotics across primary schools and selected secondary schools; we will expand the SMART classrooms programme and we will be looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and animation and things that we have not done, or attempted in the past.”

Commenting on the possible integration of robotics into schools curricula, Abrams shared that she believes this is a great idea.

What STEM Guyana has been trying to do was engage youth after school and through competitions to get them “excited”, Abrams said; but she also noted that revising the current curriculum to include robotics could be “ideal”.

Though Abrams noted that she has not perused all the initiatives in their entirety, for the few that she has knowledge of, she is generally pleased with the measures being undertaken.

Minister Jordan also told the House during his presentation that the government will continue to implement its targeted interventions; these are geared at “stimulating innovation, including coding and programming camps, robotics camps, Girls in ICT programmes and Hackathons.”

He said that under the foregoing programmes the youth population will continue to benefit from investments in the ICT sector, as many of them have already begun to demonstrate their affinity for technology and desire to innovate.

“The investments in all of those groups are extremely important,” Abrams said and affirmed: “I support anything that supports young people for the preparation of the future.”