Standing tall above young coders from 70 other countries, an 11-year-old innovator from Jamaica has copped the top prize in the international XPRIZE Code Games Challenge.

One of 17 winners from across the world, Dominic Darby was awarded ‘Best in Class’ and a cash prize of US$1,000 for his video game entry, using MIT’s Scratch coding software, in the Junior division.

The challenge, created by XPRIZE – a non-profit organisation based in California that encourages technogical development through competitions, registered more than 3,000 innovators aged 10-18 for the 2020 competition.

Approximately 70 persons registered from Jamaica and XPRIZE received entries from 800 participants all told.

Dominic, who wants to study and work in computer science, said that the sense of victory was “amazing” – particularly because he did not expect to win.

“When I realised I won, I felt good and I wanted to tell everyone, but I couldn’t at the time. This is my first time entering an international competition and to win it feels amazing.”

The young innovator said his platformer game, which involves a subject transitioning up different levels and eluding threats, took him a few months to complete.

Dominic’s mother, Shellian Darby, said her son was introduced to coding and the platform Scratch at age six during a summer programme held at The University of the West Indies.

However, she revealed that he is partly self-taught through his voracious appetite for books on coding and YouTube videos.

“The year 2020 was filled with so much doom and gloom, and for him to find a positive way to come out of it with an additional skill and be able to achieve international recognition, I am extremely happy for my son,” said Darby.

Melanie Subratie, chairman of the Seprod Foundation, an international outreach partner for XPRIZE, is looking forward to a long-standing collaboration with organisations such as XPRIZE to secure even more opportunities for Jamaican children.

“… It’s about having our Jamaican children meet world-class standards and that’s why we do it. … There is a surely nothing that Jamaican kids cannot do on a level with kids all over the world,” Subratie told The Gleaner.

Executive director of the Seprod Foundation, Lisa D’Oyen, said the organisation has for the past seven years taken the initiative to advance the skills and knowledge of children in technology.

That cooperation involves coding and robotics workshops.

D’Oyen said with coding being the language of the future, the foundation was willing to partner with Halls of Learning and XPRIZE to hone local talent.

“We want to invest in all our children because all of them have potential and we want to give them the opportunity and resources to fulfil that potential,” said D’Oyen.


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