Early May finds Micronesia, a nation of many small and scattered islands in the Western Pacific, one of the few countries with no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
An array of prevention measures, including quarantines and social distancing, have been implemented by national and state governments in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to prevent introduction or spread of the virus.
One impact of social distancing was delay of “Robo Day,” the annual statewide high school robotics championships held at the end of the school year in Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae States.
Student teams at twenty-two schools had spent the year designing, building, and fine-tuning robots in preparation for these public competitions, which showcase students’ achievement in math and science. Established in 2012, Habele’s Robo League is the most remote high school robotics program in the world and made possible through a partnership with the US Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.
While the specifics in each Micronesian state -and often each school- are different, holding four large public gatherings with scores of students and hundreds of onlookers won’t work for Robo Day 2020.
In partnership with school leaders and students, Habele has adjusted the planned Robo Day game course, creating a simpler, smaller, series of tasks that even a single student with a robot can complete for time.
Students can build a game board on any flat surface of about five square feet, such as a floor or a road. The modified game consists of three tasks, each of which are completed within that box. Another student, friend or family member can film the robot as it completes the tasks for time. The videos will be uploaded ahead of a deadline, allowing for students throughout the FSM to compete with their peers in their state and across Micronesia.
“Habele’s Robo League is about hands on learning and real-world problem solving,” explained Neil Mellen, the former Peace Corps Volunteer who established Habele in 2006. “This revision of Robo Day 2020 to allow for social distancing is a great example of problem solving –not to mention a glimpse of how transformative distance learning can be for Micronesian students.”
Details of the social distancing Robo Day game board and the three challenges are online at habele.org/RoboDay2020 as well as the facebook.com/HabeleFund. Students have until midnight local time on Thursday, May 21st to post their final videos, one task at a time. They may post as many videos on Facebook as they like until the deadline. Students must tag the videos with “#HabeleRobo” and note in their post their name, their school, their state, which task they are completing, and how long it took.
Prizes –which arrived on-island before the pandemic- will be awarded in each of the four states for the students with the fastest time for each of three individual tasks, as well for the school with the fastest combined time for the three tasks in each state.
While COVID prevention specifics in each Micronesian state vary and may evolve, the redesigned game offers students who have worked all year in preparation for Robo Day the chance to test and showcase their skills. Local conditions will dictate the specifics of how schools utilize the revised game, but the online, student-driven format offers even those under the strictest distancing guidelines the chance to safely be a part of Robo Day 2020.