(CMR) From November 1-3, the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) was the epicenter of innovation as it hosted STEM Carib 2023, setting a record as the biggest STEM conference the Cayman Islands has ever witnessed.
Drawing over 1,100 eager students and the presence of more than 350 influential community and business leaders, this packed-out landmark event stands as a testament to UCCI's unwavering dedication to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) on a grand scale within the Cayman Islands.
This year, UCCI was proud to host four globally acclaimed keynote speakers who brought a wealth of knowledge and global expertise to the event.
Caymanian Dr. Martha Williams, a celebrated Ph.D. Polymer Scientist and Inventor who retired from NASA after 29 years, shared captivating insights from her journey in space science with over 300 people.
Vanessa Slowey, an accomplished Chief Executive Officer with a vast experience spanning 27 countries and handling revenues of $2.1B, shared her journey in spearheading digital transformation across the globe. She shed light on her leadership roles in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, providing a unique blend of insights.
Aditi Joshi, an AI extraordinaire at Google, with affiliations to esteemed institutions like Yale Law, Harvard, Stanford GSB, and Yale, delved into the potential and challenges of artificial intelligence in today's rapidly evolving landscape.
Dr. Erica Gordon, UCCI Professor Dr. Gordon’s plenary focused on putting the A in STEM.
The conference also hosted over 30 hands-on breakout sessions with thousands of participants in subjects such as radiology, mangroves, solar car-building, climate change, sustainability, AI, virtual surgery, lionfish dissection, astronomy and more.
In line with UCCI's commitment to sustainability and a greener future, the University has also this month unveiled its process to develop an ambitious sustainability plan, aiming to transition its campus into an exemplar of clean energy and environmental responsibility. Funded by a generous grant of €1,024,899.75 EUR from RESEMBID, a program designed to support Caribbean countries in their efforts towards sustainable development and resilience, the newly launched ‘Sustainable UCCI’ is set to revolutionize how UCCI uses and teaches about clean energy, waste management, water conservation, and other sustainable practices, making the institution a real-life learning environment.
UCCI President and CEO Dr. Robert W. Robertson emphasized the institution's unwavering commitment to STEM.
He stated, “UCCI is deeply committed to pioneering STEM-related education and training across the Cayman Islands and the wider Caribbean. Our innovative approaches, including offering short, stackable, industry-certified courses across the country, respond to the rising demand for STEM skills, as highlighted by the recent Cayman Islands’ Labour Market Assessment (LMA). The LMA highlighted the need for skills development in key areas such as STEM and construction-related trades.”
“To address the identified skills gaps, UCCI has recently been named a National Center for Construction Education and Research and has partnered with CompTIA. These relationships allow UCCI to offer industry-recognized certifications valued by employers globally,” he added.
“STEM Carib 2023 was a resounding success attracting hundreds of businesspeople, thousands of students, and global spokespeople eager and willing to impart their knowledge to our country. The Caribbean has always been a hub of resilience and innovation. At UCCI, we're harnessing this spirit to propel STEM education to new heights. Our students are not just learners; they're future leaders, innovators, and problem-solvers. And as they rise, so does the entire region,” Robertson stated.
Cleveland Julien, RESEMBID Project Manager, remarked, “UCCI's dedication to STEM is not just about education; it's about creating a sustainable future for the Cayman Islands and setting a benchmark for the entire Caribbean. As the challenges of the modern world evolve, so does the demand for expertise in Science, Technology, Engineering, and mathematics. Recognizing this, UCCI has positioned itself at the forefront, championing STEM-related initiatives and curricula that are both forward-thinking and globally competitive.”
The Caribbean, with its unique challenges and opportunities, requires a tailored approach to STEM education—one that considers the region's specific needs, resources, and aspirations. UCCI, with its deep understanding of the Caribbean ethos and its global perspective, is uniquely poised to lead this charge.
Earlier in 2022, UCCI used an initial grant from RESEMBID to train over 60 Caymanians in sustainable trades. UCCI is an accredited center for the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) in the Cayman Islands, providing training modules and curriculum that address green building practices and sustainability in the construction industry. This aligns with the broader movement in the construction sector to adopt eco-friendly practices and ensures that new professionals entering the industry are equipped with knowledge about sustainable building.
In keeping with UCCI’s aim to create a thriving workforce within the STEM sector, STEM Carib 2023 culminated in a panel discussion highlighting skills-based training and the future of work, with notable global spokespeople, including Leonard Wadewitz from CompTIA, Dr. Brendan Lee from St. Mathew’s University, and Kevin Baxter from the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College.
STEM Carib 2023 also saw sponsorship from many of the Cayman Islands’ premier STEM companies, including The Ministry of Education, Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC), Health City, Enterprise Cayman, Water Authority Cayman, Cayman Airways, and RESEMBID.
Conference organizer and Professor of STEM at UCCI, Antoinette Gayle, commented, “The unprecedented turnout for STEM Carib 2023 is a testament to the growing importance of STEM education in the country. With the bar set high, preparations are already underway for an even grander conference next year. STEM Carib 2023 served as a melting pot for networking, learning, and constructive discussions and put UCCI on the map.”