Three girls, members of SMART Sistas, will represent Vanuatu at the inaugural FIRST Global challenge to be held from 16-18 July, 2017 in Washington DC, USA.
Each country will be represented by its chosen national team, which will compete with its self-assembled robot within constantly changing cooperative alliances of three teams each.
The Team Vanuatu is comprised of Lana Molivurae from Epauto School, Lilia Raptigh from Central School and Casanda Olul from Malapoa College.
The girls will be traveling with a mentor, Sum Abiut, one of the IT administrators for the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu.
A total of 160 countries will be participating in the event.
Chairman of SMART Sistas Committee, Rodney Philemon, explains to Kizzy Kalsakau, host of 96 BuzzFM’s Vanuatu Nightly News, that SMART Sisters is an initiative started in 2014 by the former Director of Peace Corp, Keith Honda, who saw the gap in ICT for girls and ladies to become ICT leaders.
“He said we should start up something.
“So, we started talking about it in 2014, we called a few key people in town from TRR, OGCIO, VNPF, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu and Wan Smolbag.
“We just pooled them together, talked about the issue and we eventually ran the first camp last year in May, coinciding with Pacific ICT Days.”
It was a success, when 10 girls came in, they learned programming or coding, did some graphic design, web page or web site design and were introduced to the Girls Leading Our World leadership empowerment skills for girls to become leaders.
The team also gave the participants the opportunity to visit different booths during the ICT days last year and also had a field trip to the Meteo Department and also the girls had the opportunity to meet mentors – ladies in the ICT field.
They got to meet some leaders including a representative from ITU, who came over to talk to the girls.
“A success story came out from last year’s camp.
“In March this year we received an invitation from First Global, based in the USA.
“They wanted Vanuatu to take part in this challenge, which is a robotic challenge.
“So, we selected three girls from the pool of girls from last year’s ICT Camp for Girls.
“Their parents have given consent for the girls to be part of the Vanuatu team and their schools are also okay with the idea,” Philemon added.
“At this stage we are fundraising for them to travel to USA.
“Also the First Global Robotic Team has sent a package that contains all the robotic parts.
“The girls have successfully built it in less than one week.
“It’s a mini board and they program the movements.
“It’s just a car. It can turn left and right, forward, backward.
“And also it has some sensors that you can program to do like, it can see colors and it can either stop or do anything you want it to do.”
At this stage the girls are building the theme drive for this year’s challenge, which is ‘Access to Clean Water’.
It’s one of the millennium development goals of the United Nations.
Big companies in China and two other countries have funded this challenge.
They want to see how young engineers, mathematicians, scientists, technologists and young people can be involved in engaging in this year’s challenge.
“It’s gonna be big in Washington DC.
“We are so grateful with Vee Solutions, who have provided a space for the girls to work on their robot, until July when they go.
“Yes, it will be big, and the Vanuatu flag will be raised there at the ceremony,” Philemon added.
“And then this year, this week, starting today May 15 too we’re going to have our second lot of ten girls will be coming with their guardians to our second ICT Camp for Girls.
“This is interesting because today May 15 is the 37th anniversary of the Vanuatu National Council of Women (VNCW) and there’ll be a lot of women’s and girls’ programs happening this week and we are also happy that the girls will kick start the SMART Sistas second round of ICT Girls Camp workshop.”
“This week they’re starting off with graphics design and then moving straight to some Girls Leading Our World workshops.
“Then they will do Jungo, a coding, programming, and then Python and also we’ll have an opportunity for the girls to go to the Pacific ICT Days at the Convention Centre.
“They have also arranged with Digicel, network operation center for the girls to visit.”
SMART Sistas Committee chairman Philemon said the girls will also take part in building mobile apps.
And then at the end of the week, they’ll wrap up with meeting some women leaders in ICT in the country or in Port Vila and they will be involved to some team projects.
And at the end they’ll empower the girls with some entrepreneurship ideas for starting their own business if they want to pursue that career path in science, technology and mathematics.