St. Georges, Bermuda
On the 16th of January, Overview Collective joined the 2020 launch of the Mid-Atlantic Robotics IN Education program (MARINE), hosted at the Bermuda Institute of Science (BIOS) with support from Renaissance ReInsurance Bermuda. The summit convened 72 young people, their chaperones and teachers, and multiple marine professionals to give an introduction to the upcoming robotics challenge they would be competing in, as well as a taste of other new technologies.
We loved learning more about BIOS' work, and the government's sustainability efforts on the island. Prior to the workshop, we were able to present our VR film to the Honorable Diallo V. Rabain, Minister of Education #Bermuda, Renaissance ReInsurance Bermuda, & the BIOS team. We had a preliminary conversation about the importance of encouraging students to share their opinions on SDG implementation, and to spur their interest and involvement in ocean conservation. The results of the survey will be shared with the Ministry and with partners.
Kaitlin Noyes, Director of Education and Community Engagement explained the reason for including us in their programming: "Virtual reality has so many applications for bringing the learner into the story of our ocean. We were privileged to have the Overview Collective share their technology and their knowledge of how tech can be used to engage the public with the SDGs”.
It was our first time on the island, so instead of googling all the information, we asked the experts: the 10-16 year old student attendees who had mostly lived there their whole lives.
Bermuda is a beautiful island floating in the middle of the Atlantic, with many ecological wonders, like pink sand, blue skies and crystal blue water, it has mostly great temperatures, (except of course when we were there). They have unique animals, like the cahow bird, frogs that sing and nature reserves to protect them. The reefs are also protected, and they in turn protect Bermuda from storm surges during the tropical storms and hurricanes that pass through. There are fun sports like cliff diving, cave exploring, sailing, snorkeling and diving. The people are friendly and there is really good food.
However, being an island paradise also has its drawbacks: things are expensive since everything is imported, and product availability is limited. There are no malls or chains, and life can become boring and repetitive. 65,000 people live on the 14 mile stretch of land. There is often traffic and problems with litter, recycling and trash disposal, which is often burned. Most of the plastic that washes up on its shores is carried by tides and currents from across the world. Some invasive species have settled such as the lionfish; and others can be a nuisance such as rat infestation and the annual man-of-war jellyfish migration that wash on its shore.
After this knowledge sharing exercise, we introduced the Sustainable Development Goals, inviting the students to share their top six priorities with their government and the United Nations through the MY World 2030 survey. They also ranked how the implementation process was going.
We explained that many governments are going through similar prioritization processes and how many of the goals, and countries are interconnected and affected by these decisions in a globalized world. We stressed the fact that challenges are also opportunities and that the SDGs are a road map to creating a better future.
Another toolset in the fight for a better future is a series of new technologies: AI, robotics, XR, drones, blockchain, 3D printing, the internet of things - how can these technologies help accelerate progress?
In particular, the young people were concerned with addressing the ocean plastic problem, and many noted that robotics will be a great solution to this. They also creatively combined multiple technologies, such as using drones with VR to seek out ocean plastic. Other ideas included AI to help streamline government processes to make them more fair and efficient, and new social innovations to inform tourists and other inhabitants of the island to increase civic awareness and participation in reducing waste.
We also screened the “Pearls of New York” VR film to give an example of the Billion Oyster Project’s nature based technology solution, and to show innovation and tech in action in marine conservation in New York. The students were immediately struck by the power of VR, noting that it would be an effective tool in the classroom, and would complement many subjects in social studies, history, language and culture. There was also a particular fascination with reliving, war and the plague for some reason with one class.
In operation since 1903, BIOS is home to the longest-running continuous ocean study in the world, Hydrostation “S”, that began in 1954. Their research station hosts educational groups from the island, as well as from colleges and high schools abroad. The extinct volcano of Bermuda and surrounding coral reefs ecosystem allow researchers and students alike quick access to study coastal and deep water ocean systems. Located in the middle of the Sargasso Sea, BIOS is perfectly situated to observe the northernmost coral reefs in the Atlantic, hurricane formation and intensity, and the circulation of the major currents that comprise the North Atlantic gyre.
Their location also allows them to serve as the “canary in the coal” mine - alerting the science community to large scale climatic shifts and the impact this is having on our ocean. It was truly heartening to see that many young people are informed and care about preserving the natural beauty of their island.
We are truly grateful to BIOS for hosting us, and excited to continue conversations about supporting their efforts. Also to see what their young minds create for the robotics competition in May!