Robotics Team SURINAME is part of FIRST Global Challenge 2020 (FGC2020)
They’re not getting onboard of a flight this year but they are still meeting 173 other teams on the FIRST Global platform. An online Challenge it is!

This years’ official national Robotics Team is made up of 9 students (6 boys and 3 girls) between the ages of 16 and 19 coming from 4 districts of Suriname. They are participating in the FIRST Global Challenge, an International Robotics Coopetition aimed at building global collaboration for STEM education and Robotics application.

The Challenge lasts 13 weeks and takes place between 1 July and end September.
The theme is ‘Connecting Communities’ and the competition consists of 25 ‘challenges’: Social Media and - Technical Challenges but also STEM Talks and Technical Training Sessions.

In this article we first get to know 5 of the 9 student team members representing Suriname:

  1. Eros Bianchi (17 from Paramaribo)
  2. Jamil Kromokarijo (17 from Wanica)
  3. Kevin Cai (18 from Saramacca)
  4. Shyfka Landveld (18 from Paramaribo)
  5. Taufiq Shyamnarain (18 from Paramaribo)

Each of the students including 3 of their mentors were asked to share a little about themselves, tell us why they consider STEM to be important and how participating in FGC impacted their life.

Eros Bianchi (17 - Paramaribo): ‘’I am interested in ICT and Robotics. My hobbies are photography, longboarding, drones, BJJ, and gaming. I also play the guitar and the piano, which I taught myself using online tools. From participating in this FGC I learned how to communicate with other members of the team, improving my teamwork. And I also learned other ways of thinking from the members of my team, new perspectives on how to think and improve. For me the importance of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) education is to create generations of innovators. These help form the future, creating new and better technology whilst also improving teamwork with others and creating communities within itself.’’

Taufiq Shyamnarain (18 – Paramaribo): ‘’I love coding and building fun technical stuff. In the future I want to own a company that develops any kind of software. You name it, we build it! I believe that STEM will give me the foundation to achieve my goals. STEM instruction makes basic masterminds, expands science education, and empowers the up and coming age of pioneers. STEM development prompt new items and cycles that continue our economy. This STEM development and science proficiency relies upon a strong information base in the STEM regions. With FGC I’ve learned what STEM is and how to implement it in our daily lives.’’

Shyfka Landveld (18- Paramaribo): ‘’I love to dance, sing, do karate, athletics and coding. I want to become a software engineer and have my own company. I am interested in Robotics and want to know more about it. I believe that STEM education will help me achieve my goals and also because I believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. Stem education for me is important because it contains the four basic principles that play an important role in the education system. STEM education helps children do more than just learn; it creates a fun and creative way to study. Before my participation in FGC, I had never heard about STEM before. I have learned about STEM and the importance of STEM education. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics; STEM binds every part of our lives together. My participation in FGC has had a positive impact on me and has given me a different perspective.’’

Jamil Kromokarijo (17 – Wanica): ‘’I enjoy singing, playing guitar, basketball and photography. I like everything about technology. Currently I am an electrical engineering student. Robotics for me is a combination of mechanical- & electrical engineering along with computer science and this allows me to learn about different fields that are important for creating more opportunities for myself. I am grateful for the knowledge and the new contacts I’ve made in this years’ challenge. My teamwork and communication skills have improved and I learned to think outside the box. I think that STEM education is important because it has become a part of our daily lives. Everything around us has something to do with STEM. STEM education also ecourages teamwork and brings the creative side out of us.’’

Kevin Cai (18 - Saramacca): ‘‘I like to play volleyball and watch anime. I am also somebody who loves Suriname’s rainforest and wants to see it last forever. Later I want to study Electrical Engineering in the Netherlands. For me STEM is a tool for making life easier for everyone. For example, a robot arm or leg for someone who has lost theirs. STEM education is important because everything in our future will be made from STEM application and to be able to use those inventions, you must have knowledge about STEM. From participating in FGC I have learned more about STEM. I like Science and Technology like robots but I didn't know much about it; but now I know more than before.’’


Next, we get to know the Lead mentor, Shayant Sital and senior mentors Ayan Jhagroe and Ivana Codrington.

Lead Mentor Shayant Sital: ‘’STEM is important because STEM is part of our daily lives, even when we might not notice it.  Therefore, it’s very important to motivate youngsters and to mentor them in STEM. Knowledge transfer is an important aspect within STEM, that is why ever since in participated in 2017, I’ve been involved with STEM/Robotics in mentoring other students. In 2017 I participated at the inaugural FGC in a team of 3 members of which I was the team programmer and the Team Captain/Spokesperson. I learned about FGC through the Suriname counterpart, Foundation Young Help Suriname. The 2017 competition was much more than I had expected. It had a very positive influence on me, both personally and professionally. I made friends with team members from other countries with whom I still am in contact. It was my first time participating in an international challenge and the experience made me more confident about myself and improved my social skills. I chose to become a mentor because I want to share my knowledge with others. Starting out as a junior mentor, I grew to be a senior mentor and this year I am also the Suriname Team Lead Mentor. My advice is to always plan out the challenges so the team has a better view. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, in general. Asking help will create opportunities for you to expand your knowledge and there is nothing wrong with that.’’

Senior Mentor Ayan Jhagroe: ‘’My hobbies include playing and listening to music. I also like watching movies. I have been mentoring Robotics students for the past 2.5 years because I'm fascinated by the concepts that FIRST Global presents each year. Advancements in technology have a big impact and we'll need to manipulate our skills to match this change accordingly. For me, the space between the knowledge received in the education system and the skills demanded by society can be filled by Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In addition, this is also where participating in FGC has helped me with gaining useful skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving. The FGC has brought up new interests in me for STEM related projects and helping the robotics team in Suriname. Putting your hard skills in engineering and mathematics to the test, but in the process building up your soft skills. Also, because I get the chance to meet like-minded people and exchange knowledge’’.

Senior Mentor Ivana Codrington: ‘I am currently studying Medicine at the Medical Science Faculty of the Anton de Kom University in Suriname. In my spare time I am involved with the care of my grandmother, mentoring students for FG robotics competitions and whenever possible (considering COVID-19 restriction) going for sports or hiking with friends. I participated at the First Global Challenge in the year 2017. In that year I was still in high school. Back then, robotics was a useful way to better understand the different STEM related subjects taught in school. Subjects such as physics and mathematics were applied in practice with Robotics and mastering the subject matter became easier. However, I ran into another problem. Robotics became my 2nd love. It made me re-think of what I actually wanted to do in the future and Clinical Technology became my interest. For me STEM education is important. It opens doors for students and can later contribute to the development of technology in our country. Besides the personal development of the student, it can contribute to the total development of our country.’’


And finally, a word from the management, Project Coordinator Shivani Jhagroe and Robotics Team Manager, Ashna Mahepal.

Project Coordinator Shivani Jhagroe: ‘‘I like watching nature/ health related documentaries, practicing yoga and travelling to exciting places to get to know the world a little better. I decided to volunteer and support the Robotics Teams because it allows me to contribute to young people reaching their goals. Being part of the management team for the past 2.5 years has helped me to develop my social skills and also some project management skills. And not to forget gaining international experience at the 2019 FGC in Dubai. Additionally, I learned about STEM and innovation despite it not being my field of study. FIRST Global and Young Help Suriname give the students a platform to do what they love. It gives them important resources and international contacts. STEM is necessary because Innovation is important to make things more effective and efficient. My message would be to keep innovating and inventing and use the resources FGC and YHS give you.''

Team Manager Ashna Mahepal: ‘‘It is very important that the efforts are made to have Suriname be represented on the FGC 2020 ‘Connecting Communities’ platform and any other subsequent FGC. The entire experience, from preparation to implementation, teaches the students to think beyond, to think BIG, to recognize important (future) opportunities and to work to attain open doors for global collaboration. It’s a trigger to create the mindset needed for our future, and the personal experience with a global network of like-minded peers not only expands there circle of (international STEM) friends, but most importantly it instills a sense of pride, that enables our students to be braver in exchanging knowledge at any national or international level, and in believing that one day they will make an impactful contribution towards solving an actual world challenge in our shared future. We are creating our future innovative leaders.’’

Links to more information