Did you know that the achievement of the Mamfe Methodist Girls’ High School students who topped the whole world in the Senior Division of the May 16-18 World Robofest Championship in the USA is not the full story of Ghana’s glory at the event?
Unknown, so far, to many in this country, Ghana also presented a team in the Junior Division. That team, made up of five male students, placed sixth among 52 nations of the world!
This team was made up of three junior high school students from Dayspring Montessori, Dansoman, namely Bright Andoh, 14 (the “Chief Programmer”), Prince Essiaw-Adu, 14 (the Chief Designer and Builder) and Cecil Agyepong Agyeman, 14.
The three placed first in the national competition last year and were joined at the world stage by Daniel Ekpale, a student from Glorymen’s School, and Allan Gyaman Temeng from St Bernadette School, also at Dansoman.
Telling this other half of the story is by no means an attempt to water down the achievement of the nine-member team from Mamfe Methodist Girls, a crack team of young science brains.
They were the first and best ahead of students from USA, Mexico, Egypt and South Korea.
Those Ghanaian girls were able to build a robot that arranged boxes in binary number.
I have elected myself to move a vote of honour to them.
I do so, careful to underline the role of the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation which organised the national competition out of which the two teams emerged tops and, thus, qualified to represent Ghana in the world event.
This brings me to a very important duty this morning.
Fellow Ghanaians, turn off the house lights. With a round of applause, and with the stage lights in full blast, permit me to call up stage, Dr Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu.
This famous Ghanaian robotics engineer is the technical group leader for the mobility and manipulation group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA.
The Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation is his brainchild. He founded it in 2011 to “pioneer science education through administering hands-on robotics workshops and competitions” for Ghanaian schools.
How can I forget Dr Yaw Okaraku Yirenkyi, the Country Director who has, all these years, been the man on the ground doing all the leg work!
We are not done celebrating our young scientists.
They must be presented, with all the media noise we can muster, to the minister responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation. Just in case somebody has forgotten, the minister is none other than Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the world-renowned heart surgeon. He has one passion: to grow young inventors and promote precision engineering.
I further propose that it should be Prof.’s duty to present the students to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House.
I did not get through to the authorities at Mamfe Methodist Girls.
God knows I tried. But I spoke to Mrs Exonam Agyepon-Ntra, the Principal of Dayspring Montessori.
I celebrated her on the line, extending through her my congratulations to the school’s robotics coach, David Quarshie, an SHS graduate of the school who went from there to learn about robotics at St Augustine’s College in Cape Coast.
I am not downplaying the feat of dance champions, Miss Ghana or Ghana Music Awards winners: every talent matters.
It will, however, bear making a case for our science achievers. For crying out loud, we are talking about the brains without whom we have no computers, iPad or iPhones, steel bridges to bring in food from the farm and the knowledge to multiply the yield of our crops etc.
No resource should be spared in lifting these students onto a national pedestal.
On a day when I am celebrating young achievers, I cannot fail to list GhanaSat-1, the first artificial satellite developed by Ghanaian engineers and launched into space on Friday, July 7, 2017.
On the strength of the brains of three young space engineers - Benjamin Bonsu, a PhD student, Joseph Quansah Neenyi Kojo-Krobo and Ernest Teye Matey - we have ventured into the technology that enables us to take pictures from our coastal borders while the satellite orbits 400 kilometres above the earth.
That is GhanaSat-1, and it is only the beginning. GhanaSat-2 is on the way.
The national challenge is: how do we keep track of these young scientists - perhaps putting them on juicy scholarships – to ensure that they become world icons from whose brains Ghana will benefit in years to come? It is doable.
A former Head of State, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, placed Mama Boat, a young dancer, on scholarship tenable up to university for achieving fame for Ghana at the World Festival of African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in Nigeria.
I am informed that President Akufo-Addo’s promise to increase funding for Research and Development (R&D) to one per cent of GDP is very close to fulfilment. Incentives to young scientists should be one of its uses.
A quiet revolution is ongoing.
I can see it in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) clinics in the country. At 60, CSIR celebrated renowned scientists last Saturday. Great men and women.
Little by little, the egg will walk.