Special Olympics UAE announced record participation at the Unified Robotics2021 Competition, which will see 375 students from 44 schools nationwide compete virtually in Unified Teams to complete missions on gamified platforms. The competition, the largest for neurodiverse students in the MENA region, includes two age groups, 8-11 years and 12+ years and culminates in two competition days: 13 March for primary students and 20 March for secondary students.
Unified Teams comprise neurodiverse students in mainstream education (athletes) and mainstream peers in their school (unified partners) who, over the course of the competition, collaborate as a team and complete missions. The assigned tasks and missions promote not only knowledge of STEM and robotics but also the development of communication, teamwork, and decision-making skills among neurodiverse students while allowing everyone to participate fully and enjoy a positive experience.
A virtual awards ceremony will be held on 17 April, and several winners across technical and nontechnical categories will be announced. One school has the opportunity to win the inaugural Innovate for Inclusion Award, which will be presented to the school that demonstrates most compellingly how STEM and technology activities, such as Unified Robotics, have been used within the school to promote inclusion.
“The outstanding response to the Special Olympics UAE Unified Robotics 2021 Competition from schools and educators has really surprised and delighted us, especially given how much pressure they are currently under. Special Olympics UAE has an important role to play in making the strengths and abilities of neurodiverse children more widely recognised and appreciated, by creating opportunities to empower and help them engage with their peers and contribute to their school communities,” said Talal Al Hashemi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE.
In 2019, the first Unified Robotics event ever held outside the United States was organised in Abu Dhabi. It featured about 200 students from 20 UAE schools who met and built robots over a six-week period culminating in a live event and awards ceremony, which was held on 16 November 2019. In November 2020, a virtual Unified Robotics pre-season training was launched, which attracted participation from196 students in 58 Unified Teams from 25 schools in the UAE. The competition is organised in collaboration with education partners Atlab Middle East and Aldar Education, official education partner in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.