On October 13-16, 2022, the Albanian National Robotics Team participated in the “First Global Challenge 2022” or the Olympic Games of Robotics, which were held in Geneva, Switzerland.

This team under the guidance of mentors Juljan Grori and Eda Peshku with participants Ditri Çollaku, Arb Izeti, Samuel Gjonaj, Dea Dervishi, Siri Hupin, Martin Kalo, Arlin Çobo, Joana Çobo, Bora Gripshi and Taejoon Im, has participated in this international event since 2017, properly representing Albania in USA, Mexico, Dubai, already returning after two years of virtual development due to the pandemic, in Switzerland.

The theme chosen by the organizers of First Global this year was “Carbon Dioxide Capture and Its Storage” to reduce emissions of the gas into the atmosphere which represented one of the 14 global engineering challenges.

Through hard work and dedication, the main goal of the National Robotics team is to promote the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) within the albanian youth community, in order to help Tirana become an important center of innovation in Eastern Europe.

Below is the interview for Digital Tirana with Juljan Grori, the mentor of the national Robotics team.

What is First Global Challenge 2022 and how can a team participate?

FIRST Global Challenge is a robotics competition, which is held in a different country of the world every year. This competition aims to highlight the biggest challenges facing our planet while encouraging future generations to build the STEM skills required to solve these challenges. The topics of this competition are different every year, but they always want to offer solutions to the challenges our planet faces.

The FIRST Global Challenge is a competition created by the non-profit organization FIRST Global founded by i FIRST® (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) founder, Dean Kamen. FIRST Global’s mission is to inspire leadership and innovation in young people from all nations by empowering them through education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – also known as STEM. They aim to inspire them to become future leaders in solving our world’s technological challenges and teach them the value of collaborating with others to achieve their goals.

How did the team come together in the first year?

In 2017, together with Besnik Zylka, we received an invitation from FIRST Global to select a team of 5 students between the ages of 14 and 18 to represent Albania in this global robotics competition which was to be held in Washington D.C (July 2017).

The announcement and gathering of the team was made possible thanks to the American embassy, ​​making an announcement on its website, and from there after the announcement we managed to meet with these students at the American Corner, near the National Library.

After all this time we now have our own social networks where we make announcements and various posts about the team and the activities: facebook, twitter and instagram.

What are the main criteria in the selection of the representative team and how have they changed over the years?

The main criterion is a passion for technology and STEM. At the moment we have more students, the selection for the representative team is done by means of an exam which consists of a general information about FIRST Global which is a starting point for every student who participates for the first time in the team.

Our goal is to have as many young people as possible involved in such activities and also the inclusion of girls in the team. This goal has so far been achieved as 50% of the team are female.

The year 2022 was the seventh year that we represent Albania in this competition and in the past years we managed to have a good ranking of the team and also get medals.

How would you describe your experience as a team member over the years?

The first year I was in the representative team and I was also the captain of the team. For me this was an unforgettable experience. FIRST Global allowed me to go beyond my limits, expand my field of vision, discover the beauty of values ​​such as fair play and teamwork. Now I understand what it is all about and why we must all work as a group for the advancement of a community.

How is your experience as a mentor in First Global Challenge 2022?

This is the sixth year that I am the mentor of the Albanian robotics team. Being a mentor requires a lot of dedication and hard work, but having a team passionate about robotics and collaborators, we have managed to face every challenge and every difficulty. The biggest difficulty we face every year is finding funds. When I receive the invitation from the organization, the main thing we do is meet with various companies in Albania for sponsorship reasons, to make possible the travel and accommodation of the team and any other fees we pay to participate in the competition. .

So far we have represented Albania decently in Washington D.C, Mexico City, Dubai, (2 years online due to COVID-19), and after 2 years of online challenges, we came back again representing Albania in Geneva, Switzerland in 13-16 October 2022.

What products or ideas have you come up with over the years?

The FIRST Global game is based on the 14 greatest engineering challenges facing the world, as identified by the US National Academy of Engineering, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Challenges range from finding solutions for energy and education, to medicine and cyberspace. Every year we have to build a robot that has to adapt to the improvised game of these challenges. The robot must be 50x50x50 and must be built only with parts provided by FIRST.

What advice do you have for young people and robotics enthusiasts?

In recent years, the development of technology has reached its peak. For young people, the massive usage of mobile phones and internet access has changed the way we communicate and is a defining feature of our generation. Through robotics, students learn how to work in groups, to be cooperative, to get knowledge in different fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, all of this together to reach a final product. We aim to have as many young people as possible with the desire to be included in our team and this program that we have will also take place in Albanian schools and why not take place local championships between schools.