Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Excelsior Community College unfurls STEM Robotics Centre at Eureka Road location

Published:Saturday | June 15, 2024 | 12:09 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Mark Shand (right), dean, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Excelsior Community College (ECC), explains how the robot created at the ECC operates to Sharlene Hall-Francis (left), assistant head of mathematics, ECC, and Amstradam Bourne, student at ECC,
Mark Shand (right), dean, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Excelsior Community College (ECC), explains how the robot created at the ECC operates to Sharlene Hall-Francis (left), assistant head of mathematics, ECC, and Amstradam Bourne, student at ECC, during the grand opening of the STEM Robotics Centre at the institution’s location at Eureka Road in Kingston.
Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams (left) cutting the ribbon to officially open the STEM Robotics Centre at Excelsior Community College (ECC)’s Eureka Road location on Thursday. Looking on are Philmore McCarthy (second left), principal, ECC,
Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams (left) cutting the ribbon to officially open the STEM Robotics Centre at Excelsior Community College (ECC)’s Eureka Road location on Thursday. Looking on are Philmore McCarthy (second left), principal, ECC, Reverend Bishop Christine Gooden Benguche, and Andrew Lee (right), CEO, E-Learning Jamaica Limited.
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Excelsior Community College, the institution which caters to the most of students enrolled in the Government’s Sixth-Form Pathways Programme, has opened a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Robotics Centre to better help underserved youth to get more access to that field of study.

The room consists of not only of robots, but also 60 laptops from e-Learning Jamaica. The college has also acquired six robotic modules to educate their students.

The institution was started 50 years ago by Thomas Edward Dwyer to assist students who completed secondary level education but were not able to enrol in a traditional sixth-form, college or university.

The community college, which is the first and largest in the island, with various branches, now caters to at-risk youth, who make up approximately 75 per cent of its student population.

While speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open a new block on Thursday at the institution’s Eureka Road location, Fayval Williams, minister of education and youth, outlined the benefits a STEM Robotics Centre will bring to students’ holistic development.

“In the Sixth-Form Pathways Programme, Excelsior is over excelling. They probably have the biggest cohort of students in the Sixth-Form Pathways Programme,” Williams said.

She continued to state that this is a momentous occasion for the future of education in Jamaica and a prime example of how the education sector is preparing the nation’s students for the challenges and opportunities ahead in the 21st century.

“In today’s rapidly evolving world, proficiency in STEM is not just an organisational thrust, but the skills and knowledge acquired through STEM education are critical for technological advancement, economic growth and societal problems,” Williams said.

“This new facility represents more than just a building or a programme. It symbolises a gateway to endless possibilities. It is a place where students will have the opportunity to engage in mental learning, explore their creativity and work collaboratively,” she said.

Many problems to solve

Williams strongly believes the new facility can assist with challenges related to climate change.

“We have lots of problems to be solved and we need the brainpower of our people. Climate change is bearing down now on us. We need ideas about how we respond to climate change … with solutions from students,” she said.

Philmore McClarty, principal, Excelsior Community College, noted that many of those who will benefit are first generation students.

“One of the key objectives of this lab is to provide a nurturing environment for at-risk students. At Excelsior Community College, we did a survey and we recognised that 75 per cent of the students that come to us, they are what we call first generation students. They’re students coming from homes [where] they’re the first ones to get a college experience, and as such, we play an important role in their development,” McClarty said.

“We believe that by offering cutting-edge technology and researchers, we can empower our students to excel and strive in their academic and professional pursuits, as it relates to STEM,” he said.

Over the years many students have been unable to matriculate to sixth-form programmes due to various reasons. The Ministry of Education and Youth, having observed this, developed and is now executing the Sixth-Form Pathways Programme.

The project is part of the ministry’s implementation of a seven-year high-school programme allowing students who have completed grade 11 to pursue a two-year course of study with alternative opportunities alongside the traditional sixth-form curriculum.

The ministry has been implementing what is referred to as the K-13 Strategy in an effort to ensure that all Jamaican learners have access to education from early childhood to secondary levels.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com