Scarborough secondary student highlights sargassum problem in coding competition

Lloyander Scotland, right, placed third in Cariri and Republic Bank’s Coding and Innovation Programme’s Power Up! competition. Also in photo are first-place winner Joseann Boneo, centre, and second-place winner Lionel Clement.  - Photo courtesy Ministry of Planning and Development
Lloyander Scotland, right, placed third in Cariri and Republic Bank’s Coding and Innovation Programme’s Power Up! competition. Also in photo are first-place winner Joseann Boneo, centre, and second-place winner Lionel Clement. - Photo courtesy Ministry of Planning and Development

AFTER placing third in the Cariri/Republic Bank Coding and Innovation's PowerUp! competition, Tobago student Lloyander Scotland says she is aiming for first place in the 2023 competition.

The competition was staged courtesy the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) and Republic Bank Ltd. Scotland's project which was judged in the finals was about an early-warning system to aid in controlling the sargassum seaweed which has washed up along miles of Tobago's pristine beaches.

The 14-year-old is a Form Three student of Scarborough Secondary School and was Tobago’s lone finalist in the competition.

In July, students between the ages of 10-18 were invited to the programme which ran from August 2-30. There were three available tracks for students to choose from – coding and programming, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Following this, a competition aspect was introduced to ensure the students complete the programme, remain engaged to the end as well as get a good understanding of the concepts taught.

In the competition, students had to identify a problem in the environment – water, land and energy, the economy, the community they live or come up with a better way for people to communicate and socialise with each other.

Scotland, speaking at her Carnbee home on Wednesday, said: “I feel very proud of myself especially as the only Tobagonian (in the final).”

She said she had to present a five-minute video on her selected topic which focused on the sargassum seaweed early detection.

She said she was able to complete her presentation in approximately three weeks. Scotland initially registered for the programme in 2021, but was unable to participate as all spaces were filled. She applied again this year and was accepted.

Sargassum seaweed ashore at Rockly Bay, Lambeau Tobago in April 2020. - File photo by Leeandro Noray

“There were other Tobagonians in the first round, I wasn’t the only one, but I was the only Tobagonian selected as a finalist.”

The youngster said that in the past decade, sargassum seaweed has become an acute problem for several Caribbean countries as it washed up on shore and drastically alters or even destroys the ecosystem.

It has also been a problem for the tourism sector as the seaweed washes up on many beaches and as they dry out and decay, give off a terrible stench.

“The Caribbean would usually experience a few small mats of sargassum washing ashore in a given year. Until 2011, when the seaweed first began arriving in unexpectedly large waves. Similar pile-ups have occurred almost every year since – closing down hotels and beaches,” she said.

She recalled that in 2015, the Tobago House Of Assembly (THA) spent approximately $3million in clean-up and recovery exercises, adding that the assembly currently spends approximately $1 million annually in recuperation and rehabilitation.

But what is her solution?

“To have buoys in the sea or ocean at different locations with a sensor and camera attached. When the sargassum seaweed approaches the first buoy, the sensor is triggered and turns on the camera.”

With a broad smile, Scotland said she enjoyed the programme and competition immensely.

“Overall, it was a nice experience for me, getting to use my skills in putting my presentation together. I really liked the journey and I think this was a really good thing for me to get into, and I am aiming for first place in next year's competition."

She said her father Lloyd supported her throughout.

“My father helped me – I conducted a survey and compiled the findings which he then looked at and made good suggestions.”

Listening in on the interview, Lloyd chimed in to say he was very proud of his daughter.

“I feel good because of the fact that out of 2,000 people all with their own presentations, my child placed third overall. This is a great success not only for her but for Tobago to as she was the only Tobagonian in the finals," Scotland said.

He said Lloyande's topic was timely.

“When we look at the sargassum seaweed, we saw that it has the potential to damage our tourism. She thought it necessary to try and develop something that could give us an early warning so that we can implement action before the seaweed reach our shores," he said.

A press release stated that Cariri has been executing ICT educational programmes for the nation’s youths since 2018 and has reached over 5,000 students thus far.

Republic Bank under its Power to Make a Difference programme saw value in the content and partnered with Cariri to offer the programme to more students than ever before.

The current Coding and Innovation Programme was designed to include participants aged 10–18 and provided them with five options of tracks to choose from which included:

An introduction to computer engineering for kids.

ICT-enabled youth entrepreneurship

Computer engineering concepts for industry

New technologies, ideation and life skills

Introduction to mobile app development and computer science, web technologies and business applications.

The programme helped students to understand coding, engineering, business development and innovation and its importance in generating winning ideas that could be created to solve business and community problems.

In order to ensure that learning took place and to keep students engaged to the end, this year, a competition aspect was added to keep things interesting for the students.

The PowerUp! competition asked students to identify a problem that currently exists and figure out a way to solve it using technology.

The top ten students were selected and they were able to attend a special class to learn about pretotyping (pretotyping is a way to test a product idea quickly and inexpensively by creating an extremely simple version of the solution).

Then they were given two weeks to develop a pretotype of their solution and the final leg of the competition saw the ten students have the opportunity to do a pitch to the judges.

In first place was Joseann Boneo with Schomoply, second place went to Lionel Clement with Track your Data and third place went to Scotland with her Sargassum Seaweed Plan.

Other participants in the competition were Oghenetega Osoroh, Jurre Cox, Jerrod Prescott, Jordan Cook, Jayden Solomon, Hannah-Marie Redman, Skye Craig.

The prize giving ceremony took place on November 7, at Cariri’s Centre for Enterprise Development in Freeport.


"Scarborough secondary student highlights sargassum problem in coding competition"

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