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Monday 20 August 2018
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Inspiring youths the robotic way

Keisha Cruickshank is on a mission to inspire creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship with robotics for local young people. Following past successes, her team and organisation is leveraging international approaches to create another holistic and hands-on Innovators vacation camp experience for the July/August school vacation.

“Robotics is pretty new to the region,” Cruickshank told WMN, “and in my role working with robotics education companies in the international arena, I started to think about how I could bring this home in a meaningful and useful way. I wanted to make it affordable and accessible not just to the one per cent, but to all young people as a way of preparing them for the future.”

The entrepreneur and international director of Ann Carlo Enterprises Global Company Limited (ACE) has a diverse background, ranging from banking and education to health government roles. Though she also likes to stay in the background of her work, she is committed and passionate to creating awareness of the possibilities that exist in STEM for locals. Her team has also received international attention for creating programmes in the past, such as Girls Going Global with Robotics, which aims to show young girls that they can succeed in a space that is currently 70 per cent male dominated.

A cross section of a model of the Eiffel Tower.

With a background in the sciences, Cruickshank changed gears and opted to also pursue studies in Social Sciences with a view to understanding social engineering. “I was always interested in human development, so these camps are not run for those purely with a science mindset, but more from an overall development-of-the-child perspective. While coding and technical skill building is important, the real takeaways are the life skills that participants get from our Innovators weekday and weekend clubs and our Innovators vacation camps,” she highlighted. What sets this camp apart for the participants is not just the focus on coding and robotics, but that Cruickshank and her team have framed it in regard to overall national development, something to which they are steadfastly committed.

Each week of the camp features different innovation themes and is a mix between the traditional ‘summer’ camp activities like the creative arts and sports, and new fresh offerings including Extra Fun Fridays for activities such as bouncy castles, face-painting and miniature golf, weekly field trips alongside robotics building and coding. “When you look at what is behind the coding or behind any activity, you will find skills like problem solving, strategy and management. Those are skill sets you can take and apply to whatever the scenario you may be in to produce a better result. So while we do engage in coding and robotics building, it’s also about the other skills they learn in the process,” she added.

On the robotics level, Cruickshank said children would engage with a series of age appropriate building and robotics tools including Marty the Robot, a UK-based robotic platform which can be programmed to walk, play football and dance – perhaps even to soca or parang. “Young persons from as young as seven and eight years old are building and coding robots in C++ from their first day of learning. We received partnership support from RoboLoco Inc, a US-based company responsible for the Roboterra Origin Kit and Castlerock Software,” she added. “For our Innovators Easter camp held at UWI Open Campus, St Augustine, we wanted children to see that anything they could imagine, they could create. Our Innovators’ July/August camp will deepen that conversation to teach children that as citizens of TT, they are also citizens of the global community; which they can contribute meaningfully to as adults. Showing young people that we are all part of this earth is one thing that we aim to foster, while also encouraging a healthy sense of self in terms of who we are as people,” Cruickshank said.

Cruickshank said parents can choose from the camps based at Apex International Academy, Chaguanas or Eastern Educational Private School, St Augustine and any of the seven weeks, but should aim for a two-week window so that they can also enjoy the showcase by the participants for students that happens every two weeks. Interestingly, Extra Fun Fridays, the end-of-week experience for participants will be held every Friday at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). The YWCA has been in TT since 1943 and is credited with hosting the very first summer camp (internationally) in 1874. As a past president of the national YWCA in Trinidad and Tobago, Cruickshank sees this as coming full-circle and giving back to an organisation that helped her – so that she could help young people now see the possibilities that enabled her to pursue her own life on her own terms. “We simply want young people to see that the old adage ‘Anything one can imagine, they in fact can create’ is after all, true,” Cruickshank said.

Parents interested in Innovators July/August Camp 2018 or Innovators Clubs can visit www.anncarloenterprisesglobal.com



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