In Costa Rica, Microsoft/IICA technology competition for high school students will announce winning teams on November 15
San Jose, 6 November 2023 (IICA). The winners of the Minecraft Education Challenge for Agriculture, a competition launched in May by Microsoft and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for high school students in Costa Rica, will be decided on November 15 at the agency’s Headquarters in San Jose.
A total of 107 students aged 12-18 from 15 public and private schools signed up for the competition. The institutions represented include a number of professional-technical and scientific high schools in rural areas with a strong focus on agriculture, such as the Talamanca Professional-Technical High School (CTP) and the Scientific High School of the Atlantic, in the province of Limón; the Hojancha CTP and the Liceo Maurilio Alvarado Vargas of Tilarán, in Guanacaste; the Agricultural High School of San Carlos, in Alajuela; and, in the province of San José, the Puriscal CTP, Barbacoas Technological High School and the Liceo Nuevo, all in the canton of Puriscal, as well as the CTP of Turrubares.
Students with special needs from the San Felipe Neri Integration Center, in Desamparados, San José, also took part in the challenge, as inclusion is a feature of this Microsoft/IICA initiative.
The aim of the first edition of the challenge –which calls for the use of the Minecraft Education game-based platform– is to develop young people’s digital and soft skills and thereby help close technological and gender gaps; encourage critical and collaborative thinking, creativity and invention; empower young people as agents of change in their academic centers and communities; and enable the participants to engage in the development of solutions with a dynamic, fresh approach.
The goal in the competition was for students to develop a solution in the Minecraft Education world designed to meet the current global challenge of how to achieve increased agricultural production while making more efficient use of natural resources, and in a context of global population growth, a reduction in the arable land available, and climate change.
The five finalists selected from the 37 teams that signed up for the competition will be taking part in the event at IICA on November 15. For five months, the young people received online mentoring and training in the use of Minecraft (initially, 28 of the 107 participants did not know how to use the tool) and in agricultural issues related to the solutions they were required to develop, the skills needed to make successful presentations, and the creation of impactful presentations.
The participating teams also had to present a video explaining the different components they used in their proposed solution.
“This initiative is an excellent opportunity for children and teenagers to exploit all their creativity to propose solutions that solve real problems. The activity is intended to be an eye-opener and an inspiration for new generations, so they can imagine a better future that is sustainable and inclusive, permitting the human, economic and environmental development of Costa Rica through the use of technology”, said Margarita Morera, Microsoft Director of Education for Central America.
“The development of digital skills among new generations is essential to innovate in the agricultural sector, promote sustainable agriculture, and make appropriate use of natural resources. At IICA, we’re building these capacities because today’s young people will be the leaders of the agriculture of the future, which will need to be more resilient, efficient and inclusive, in a region like the Americas that is a guarantor of global food security and has abundant biodiversity”, commented the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero.
The Challenge in depth
The premises for the development of solutions were as follows: the existence of a town with a protected area that could not be altered, various types of soils, limited supplies of water from a source some distance away, low rainfall, a mostly dry climate, and less space for traditional farming than required to feed the town’s entire population.
The goal was to produce enough foodstuffs to feed the entire town (with a population of 1000 people), use a limited amount of resources without damaging the environment, ensure efficient water management, utilize sustainable production processes, increase production on the land available, cultivate a range of crops, include crop storage options, and make use of efficient, technology-based systems.
The proposed solution had to include at least one kind of automated process, pest management, and actions demonstrating climate change management and the positive effect of fertilizers. The teams were also encouraged to make use of diversified agricultural landscapes such as the integration of crop farming, stock raising and forestry, among others.
The focus areas were future agricultural scenarios, the use of renewable resources in agriculture, the cultivation of crops on different types of soils, and the application of various types of irrigation.
In the finals, which will take place at IICA at 9 a.m. on November 15, the five finalist teams will have to explain their solution to a special jury. Everything they have developed in the Minecraft world has to represent a real solution, or explain what it represents in the real world.
After this first edition, IICA and Microsoft intend to replicate the Challenge in the other countries of the Americas and encourage students in the hemisphere to design more sustainable agricultural scenarios with the help of Minecraft Education.
Institutional Communication Division.