GSTS-GIANTSBOT1 tour Massachusetts Schools to gain insight into Robotics
Ghana Secondary Technical School GIANTBOT1’s Visit Massachusetts Schools
The GSTS Robotics Team, GIANTBOT1 visited both Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts from 13th to 14th May, 2018 on their way to ROBOFEST 2018 WORLD ROBOTICS COMPETITION in Southfield, Michigan. GiantBot1 did well at the competition ranking 12th out of 23 teams in the senior division. The other part of their visit, an arranged enrichment program organized by the GSTS Alumni Association (GAA) was intended to expose these students to the real life applications of robotics, and to broaden their horizons to a world of possibilities.
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Boston – experiencing the Smart Cities concept in action
On 13th May, 2018, the team arrived in Boston and took in the sights of the city with a visit to the Downtown area, including South Station, the historic Boston Tea Party, a walk through the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the New England Aquarium, and parts of the Boston Waterfront Innovation District where the city has focused its Smart Cities initiatives.
As one of the oldest cities in America, Boston is rich in historical landmarks, architecture, and other monuments, yet the city also currently leads the United States in implementing Smart Cities initiatives – a smart city is essentially a municipality that uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.
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One such integration of technology and nature in an urban setting is the aforementioned Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a roughly 1.5-mile-long series of parks and public spaces, an amazing creation of park space in a highly dense urban city such as Boston. Here, the team members were able to experience both the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the serenity of nature within the same space, including the Harbor Fog water feature sculpture, an interactive sculpture by Ross Miller that puts off cool mist and sounds of the Harbor in response to movement.
Another example of the Smart City concept in action is “Smart Streets”, which gathers data on how vehicles and cyclists move during different traffic signals, as well as, how pedestrians cross intersections. This data is used to help the City better understand the hazards on our roads, and decide on what changes need to be made that provide for better streets, sidewalks, or signage; changes to how traffic rules are enforced and even more in-depth public education on road safety.
The tour was a great learning experience for the students to see how robotics and ICT in general can be integrated into city life to enhance citizens’ quality of life.
Worcester Technical High School – “Creating the future through Technology, Training and Talent”
The team’s other destination in Massachusetts took them to Worcester, the second largest city in the state, where they visited two educational institutions, a high school, and a college.
Worcester Technical High School (WTHS) is a model for what we hope GSTS will once again become in the near future. Like GSTS, WTHS combines technical education with a traditional academic curriculum, with an emphasis on applied technology, where students marry the theoretical with the practical, and are thus well prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. The team was met upon arrival by the Principal of the School Mr. Kyle Brenner and Assistant Principal Ms. Michelle Phenix. The three (3) hour tour of the school took the team to various departments within the school, including:
Design and Engineering Department
- Robotics & Automation Technology
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Computer Aided Drafting (CAD)
- Automotive Technology
- Welding Tool Technology
Allied Health & Human Services
- Environmental Science and Technology
- Veterinary Assisting
- Allied Health
- HVAC/R – (Heat, Ventilation, Air-conditioning/Refrigeration)
- Plumbing & Pipe Fitting
- Painting and Interior Design
Information Technology & Business Services
- Programming & Web Development
- ISS&N – (Information Services, Security & Networking)
- Finance & Marketing
- Graphic Communications
GiantBot1 members had the opportunity to interact with the WTHS students as they worked on their projects. One striking feature that fascinated the Gianbot1 team was, they learned that students take on practical roles at the school and in the community. Under supervision of teachers, students repair the school’s vehicles and that of people in the community free of charge, gaining practical experience in the process.
As the GiantBot1 team entered the WTHS building, they met with students on their way out to do their practical for the day at an actual building site. Even some of the electrical, plumbing, and building repairs at the school are done by the students. The team witnessed students aged 14 through 18 years constructing a workspace for a new program at the school. The ICT students troubleshoot and repair all of the school’s computers, and provide helpdesk support for the entire school. In fact, even the City of Worcester routinely calls on the school students to address some of the City’s design and repair needs. Paraphrasing the Assistant Principal, “the City and tax payers fund us and we give back to the City”.
In the Robotics and Automation department, the team had the opportunity to review various projects that students were working on. Each member of GiantBot1 was paired with a student for a one on one interaction as they explained their various projects. One interesting project being worked on by a student was a smart traffic light system which involved elements of programming, electronics and engineering; all core elements in robotics (and a Smart Cities component). The student explained his “smart street lights” project to the team members. In practice, smart street lights detect vehicles and humans using sensors, and adjust the lights for the efficient flow of both vehicle traffic and pedestrians.
In the CAD design lab, the WTHS students demonstrated their CAD designs from concept to design to prototyping. The team also got the chance to drop in on an architectural design class where students were using CAD to design buildings and also building models of their designs.
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At the Advanced Manufacturing lab, the team members interacted with heavy equipment as well as 3D printers and learned about additive manufacturing and its benefits. They were also given a tour of the welding section by one the top welding students, who had been admitted to a University and was planning to become a lawyer, even though she was technically adept.
The team was further wowed at the Biotechnology lab when one student of Ghanaian parentage explained her research on culturing fruit fly cells under different conditions to observe the effect of each specific condition on the cell’s growth rate. Some of the students were planning to pursue careers in medicine and research.
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It must be emphasized that WTHS is the equivalent of SSS education level in Ghana. Like GSTS, it has strong traditional courses like the sciences, arts, and business but also a very strong technical curriculum. The ages of the students range from 14 years to 18 years, and it was both humbling and impressive to see what these students are being taught and have been able to accomplish in their education. Underlying the justification for such schools is the recognition that not all students are destined for traditional university education, hence imbuing them with technical and vocational education and hands-on skills serves the purpose of readying them for high paying and innovative jobs upon graduation. As team learned, many of the graduating seniors had been admitted to tertiary institutions to pursue various courses ranging from engineering to biotechnology. They also learned that you can be very technically skilled yet choose careers in medicine, law and other areas traditionally not associated with technical education, which underscores the recognition that a multidisciplinary education fosters responsible citizenship by balancing ethics and social responsibility with problem solving. The team’s WTHS experience showed what is possible when schools are adequately equipped with a clearly defined core mission to bring out the best in students. This used to be the case at GSTS just a few decades ago. It is the stated aim of the GSTS Alumni Association to help restore GSTS to that core mission of technical education coupled with a robust sciences and arts curricula.
Quinsigamond Community College – STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, & Math)
The team’s next stop was Quinsigamond Community College (QCC), a two-year college that emphasizes STEAM – an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. QCC’s STEAM Summer Bridge Program, for instance, prepares prospective college students for the rigors of academic life at the school.
At QCC, the team toured the Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Robotics departments. QCC professor and GSTS alumni Gt. Dr. Tetteh Abbeyquaye led the tour beginning with the Chemistry department. He walked the visiting team through the lab setup, explained the uses of various equipment, and briefly took them through a lab safety training.
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The tour of the Manufacturing department was equally immersive; the team learned more about the additive manufacturing process, and the ability to create just about any product on demand using 3D printing and other technologies. The team’s final stop was the Robotics department where they were given more insight into Robotics and its many applications. The team got the opportunity to interact with different types of robots, and marveled at how vast the robotics field really is.
As was the case with WTHS, students of QCC upon graduation, are ready to enter the work force with skills that are in high demand, which translate into high paying jobs. They may also choose to continue their college education by transferring to a four-year college or in some cases, enter directly into graduate programs such as pharmacy.
GiantBot1’s tour of these two schools, WTHS and QCC, was educationally enriching for these young men, and we hope they will go back and share their experiences with the rest of their school mates, and to also see the wide range of possibilities ahead of them.
The GSTS Alumni Association which arranged this trip wishes to emphasize its commitment to a strong technical education at GSTS. As stated earlier, GSTS was similarly well equipped and used to train many technically capable students over the years before the school moved away from its core mission. The GAA now has as its main goal, the restoration of technically focused education at GSTS in the very near future.
The GiantBot1 team comprised of Coach Giant Henry Kwaku Boafo and five students: Kelvin Aboagye, Kelvin Nketia-Achiampong, Abeiku Sompa Nyarko-Lartey, Anstein Anomel and Kofi Erzah Buah. They were joined by members of the GAA namely: Giant Anthony Ashon, Giant Tetteh Abbeyquaye and Giant Walter Kwami.
Teamwork and acknowledgements
This effort by the GAA was a team effort and there are many Giants (GSTS Alumni) to collectively and individually thank for helping make this trip possible. On behalf of the GAA, special thanks goes to members and Executives of the Year Groups and Chapters that mobilized and made various contributions towards this trip. This appreciation also goes to all those who helped behind the scenes and made individual monetary contributions. We also thank the Headmaster, staff, and student body of GSTS.
We cannot fail to recognize the hard work of the committees behind this effort, namely, the work of the GAA Robotics Planning Committee, the GAA Publicity and Marketing Committees, the seeing off and welcoming parties; and especially, the GAA Robotics Fundraising Committee. To the member of these committees we say a big thank you.
Space would not allow us to mention all names in this article but it must be known that the GAA and GSTS are eternally grateful to all Giants for STANDING TALL in this endeavor. Also on our thank you list is Worcester Technical High school (WTHS) and Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) for their invitation and very warm reception. We cannot end our thanks without mentioning GAA-North America for as they like to put it, doing their duty by hosting our GiantBot1 team during their 10 days US visit.
Finally, GSTS and the GAA would like to thank the United States Embassy, the Government of Ghana, the Ministry of Education, the Ghana Educational Service (GES), the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana Gt. Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Education Gt. Enoch Cobbinah and particularly the Minister for Education, the Hon. Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, for their unwavering support and encouragement of our efforts.
By Walter Kwami (GSTS class of 1984) – GAA-NA Media Committee