Remarks for Pan-African Robotics Competition – May 20, 2017

(As prepared – Delivered by Political Chief Officer John T. Ice)

Good Morning and thank you to SenEcole and the Pan-African Robotics Competition planning committee for inviting me and for putting together such a wonderful event.

We are honored to support this initiative that promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – what we call STEM — in Senegal.

Two weeks ago, we hosted a STEM workshop at our Embassy in partnership with the Dakar American University of Science and Technology.  The workshop did not focus on lecturing or explaining theory.  Instead, we provided a few basic plastics parts and tools, introduced the participants to the free resources and information in our Embassy library, and simply asked them to create something.  Within a few hours, the participants, the majority of whom were female, learned mechanical engineering and computer coding skills necessary to create robots that could move around and pick items up.  It was incredible to see how fun and rewarding STEM can be!

One of the goals of the United States Government in Senegal is to promote economic prosperity.   It is no secret that science, technology, and innovation are the drivers of economic growth.   With knowledge of chemistry, agriculture, and industrial manufacturing, we can find solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.  The solutions to these challenges will not be developed by just one person, or one country, or even one continent.  The Pan-African Robotics Competition’s theme of “Made in Africa” supports this notion.  As such, I am pleased to see participants here not only from Senegal, but from across Africa.  If you can build robots for this competition by sharing ideas and knowledge, you can do the same to advance global development that is collaborative and inclusive.

Subjects like science and engineering are not just about mixing chemical solutions and building robots.  STEM fields teach us how to question our assumptions and discover the unknown.  STEM enables us to find solutions to some of the most pressing issues of today such as alternative energy or even food security.  Most importantly, in my opinion, STEM pushes us to keep learning, to keep trying new things, and to keep stretching our imagination.

The U.S. Embassy is supporting this competition in hopes that all of you will gain the tools to tackle global challenges.  As the next generation of African science and technology leaders, we will be looking to you for innovation and ideas.   For our part, we will strive to provide you with adequate resources and mentorship to succeed.

The work you do now will make the future of this continent, and the world, stronger and brighter.  If you learn anything from this competition today, it is that if you can imagine something, with skill and determination, you can create it and make it a reality.

I congratulate the participants for all the hard work and effort that you put forth in this competition.  Your knowledge and talent makes us very proud.  Thank you and good luck!