Acting Vice President Dr. Anjeela Jokhan
Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering
Head of School, Professor Maurizio Cirrincione 
Staff and students of School of Engineering and Physics
Representatives of engineering student chapters
Year 13 Students and staff from selected schools
Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni sa bula vinaka, As-salam Alaikum, Namaste and a very good afternoon to you all. 

Thank you for the kind words of welcome accorded to me. I am delighted to be here to officiate at the Robocon launch at USP School of Engineering & Physics. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Asia-Pacific ROBOCON competition is held every year and is organised by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union based in Japan. The competition brings together University students from over 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. The University of the South Pacific School of Engineering and Physics students have been engaged in this competition since 2002.

I am pleased as well as excited to know that in August 2020, Fiji will host the Asia-Pacific ROBOCON competition which will be a historical event for USP, our secondary school students and for all the Asia Pacific participants.

The launch today is a stepping stone for us to gear into a few months of preparation leading up to August 2020 Asia-Pacific ROBOCON competition. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Ministry is working together with the University of the South Pacific on a number of events linked to ROBOCON: 
1 Holding a secondary school competition at USP this month 2020
2 Inviting secondary school students to the actual 2020 ROBOCON Competition in August (to be held at the Vodafone Arena)
3 Running a competition in schools, from May to June, 2019, to select a theme for next year’s School competition.
4 Primary school Poster competition during 2020 ROBOCON Competition in July and August. 

This is the first time our students will have the opportunity to take part in events leading up to the actual Asia-Pacific ROBOCON competition. It is indeed once-in-a lifetime opportunity for our school students.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world has recognized the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths education. Fiji has also recognized this need as we lack skilled engineers to contribute to our growing economy whether they help build roads and bridges, new machinery or even buildings which are Cyclone Category 5 proof.

Earlier this month, 30 girls completed a STEM camp coordinated by Graduate Women Fiji. This initiative was for primary school students to have a positive self-perception and be encouraged to take up careers in STEM subjects later on in life. We also need to break down the barriers of gender stereotyping in some professions including engineering.

In order to promote an increased uptake in STEM subjects at universities, we need those same universities to train new teachers who will inspire our next generation of engineers, statisticians, software programmers, app developers, climate change scientists – and the list goes on. Our Ministry has been working with the School of Education and Pacific TAFE to address this as we need them to up their game in this area.

Technology and robotics are now being integrated into everyday life in society. This competition will enhance our students’ knowledge of the applications of different disciplines like Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science. Furthermore, such competitions promote interdisciplinary knowledge and application of different disciplines, which enables greater creativity. 

So to ensure that our students develop the critical thinking, innovation, analytical skills and team work that are required in the engineering profession, activities such as this help. We are working to develop a new concept of a Science and Engineering Challenge and a Science Circus Pacific which, we believe, will further assist to raise the profile of STEM and engineering with support from various universities.

In a profession like engineering, the value of teamwork cannot be over-emphasized. The activities planned require students to work in collaboration and create solutions. The next 12 to 15 months will be exciting times for our school students preparing for the High School competition to be held along with the Asia-Pacific ROBOCON competition in August 2020. When we are engaged with this, we should consider the significance of participation more than winning.

As for today, we have established the platform for the planned ROBOCON events that will involve our talented and capable secondary school and university students that have interest in engineering and technology. You will also have the privilege to meet other University students, local and international academics – grasp this opportunity to expand you experience and knowledge. Through these competitions, you will gain exposure to new ideas and also experience the innovations in the world of technology. 

I wish all school and university students well as you prepare to participate in the upcoming months. We will be there to support Team Fiji in the competition.

Thank you. Vinaka Vakalevu! May God bless you all!