The 18th staging of the Annual UWI Research Days was held from February 1 to 3. This year’s theme, “Driving Development through Research and Innovation”, focused on the UWI’s continuous commitment to generating growth opportunities in order to facilitate positive change in Jamaica and the region.
SNIFFING OUT NEW RESEARCH: A visitor gets her fill at one of the many booths at UWI Research Days 2017 held at The UWI, Mona Campus from February 1-3.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Pro Vice-Chancellor and UWI, Mona Campus Principal, Professor Archibald McDonald, reflected on its inception. “It is really amazing that this marks the 18th year of Research Days, which was conceptualised and implemented by former Governor General and former Principal of the Mona Campus, Professor Sir Kenneth Hall. This certainly demonstrates the power of visionary thinking. Visionary thinking not only addresses today’s problems but provides solutions which will last and benefit generations to come.”
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Dr Horace Chang, echoed similar sentiments, while lauding The University for its work in areas such as medical, natural and social sciences.
Chang, who was guest speaker at the opening ceremony, went on to call for greater collaboration among The University, the public and private sector stakeholders to help fuel the national development agenda.
“We have to find a way to drive more resources into research,” the minister told the gathering, noting that the policy of the Government was to facilitate more public-private partnerships
The Principal, for his part, underscored the present mandate of Research Days. “There is no debate whatsoever about the positive impact of The UWI on the development of the human capital of Jamaica and the Caribbean,” he told the gathering. “Our mandate now is to use our intellectual capacity and skills honed over these 69 years, to make a positive impact on Jamaica’s economic development. Even as we continue to encourage the work of individual researchers, we have decided to put the emphasis on research to impact national and regional development,” he added.
The next three days saw several such exhibitions, showcasing current research in various formats, across the different faculties and departments. There were also several signature events, including forums, public lectures, panel discussions and book launches. Tours were a staple throughout, with visitors having the opportunity to explore heritage sites and other points of interest on the Mona Campus. The entertainment segments and lunch hour concerts provided added excitement, especially for the high school students who were present. The performers featured included The UWI Panoridim Steel Orchestra, University Chorale, UWI Pop Society, DBurnz, Girl and other notable entertainers from the campus.
One of the most outstanding exhibitions in the Research Days Village came from students of the Mona School of Engineering, who were a part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) team that placed third out of 45 universities in an international competition in 2016. Their 2016 invention, an autonomous robot, was designed to carry out “scaled down” activities at a shipping wharf. It could identify different containers based on size, colour and location, then navigate through the area, picking up each container. It would then sort and prepare these for transport using their barcodes and colours. Their display featured the theme for the 2017 IEEE competition – Star Wars – Episode MMXVII: The Engineering Force Awakens.
In keeping with the 2017 Research Days theme, the IEEE group also created another invention – an autonomous drone. To operate this drone, one would only need to set the desired location online and it would be able to go to the set location and return. The long-term vision for the drone is to create more solutions to help Jamaica. “You can have it flying over the Riverton Dump to sense the heat, to stop the fire before it starts,” one of the booth presenters explained to a large group of visitors.
“We also have ideas such as the delivery of packages to people in places where there are improper roads, and places where people cannot get access to medication. So that’s the vision. We want to try to help Jamaica.”
This vision is also in keeping with The UWI’s thrust to impact national and regional development.
With the wealth of research showcased at this year’s Research Days, anticipation is high for the 19th staging.