Saturday July 21, 2018

Robotics Competition: Robots built by team of Young People Promotes Innovation for Economic Growth in Africa

Organizers of the annual robotics competition say the goal is to encourage African governments and private donors to invest more in science and math education throughout the continent.

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Dakar, Senegal (May 19, 2017) - Rokyaha Cisse, 17, from Dakar, adjusts her team's robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal. Their robot sends sounds into the ground, which detect the presence of metal.
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Dakara, May 24, 2017: The hum of tiny machines fills a fenced-off obstacle course, as small robots compete to gather mock natural resources such as diamonds and gold.

The robots were built by teams of young people gathered in Dakar for the annual Pan-African Robotics Competition.

They’re among the several hundred middle school and high school students from Senegal and surrounding countries who spent last week in Dakar building robots. Organizers of the annual robotics competition say the goal is to encourage African governments and private donors to invest more in science and math education throughout the continent.

Marieme Toure, from Dakar, adjusts her team's robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R.Shryock/VOA)
Marieme Toure, from Dakar, adjusts her team’s robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R.Shryock/VOA)

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‘Made in Africa’

The event’s founder, Sidy Ndao, says this year’s theme is “Made in Africa,” and focuses on how robotics developed in Africa could help local economies.

“We have noticed that most countries that have developed in the likes of the United States have based their development on manufacturing and industrialization, and African countries on the other hand are left behind in this race,” Ndao said. “So we thought it would be a good idea to inspire the kids to tell them about the importance of manufacturing, the importance of industry, and the importance of creation and product development.”

During the week, the students were split into three groups.

The first group worked on robots that could automate warehouses. The second created machines that could mine natural resources, and the third group was tasked to come up with a new African product and describe how to build it.

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Aboubacar Savage, 14, from Gambia looks at a computer at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)
Aboubacar Savage, 14, from Gambia looks at a computer at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)

Building a robot a team effort

Seventeen-year-old Rokyaha Cisse from Senegal helped her team develop a robot that sends sound waves into the ground to detect the presence of metals and then start digging.

Cisse says it is very interesting and fun, and they are learning new things, as well as having their first opportunity to handle robots.

As part of a younger team, Aboubacar Savage from Gambia said their robot communicates with computers.

“It is a robot that whatever you draw into the computer, it translates it and draws it in real life,” Savage said. “It is kind of hard. And there is so much competition, but we are trying. I have learned how to assemble a robot. I have learned how to program into a computer.”

The event’s founder, Ndao, is originally from Senegal, but is now a professor at the University of Nebraska’s Lincoln College of Engineering in the United States.

“I have realized how much the kids love robotics and how much they love science,” Ndao said “You can tell because when it is time for lunch, we have to convince them to actually leave, and then [when] it is time to go home, nobody wants to leave.”

Mohamed Sidy, 14 years old and from Dakar, holds up his team's robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)
Mohamed Sidy, 14 years old and from Dakar, holds up his team’s robot at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal, May 19, 2017. (R. Shryock/VOA)

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Outsourced jobs cost Africa billions

A winning team was named in each category, but Ndao hopes the real winners will be science and technology in Africa.

The organizers of the Next Einstein Forum, which held its annual global gathering last year in Senegal, said Africa is currently missing out on $4 billion a year by having to outsource jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to expatriates.

Ndao said African governments and private investors need to urgently invest more on education in those fields, in particular at the university level. (VOA)

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Barbie Ventures Into Coding Skills To Encourage Girls to Learn Coding Skills

The lessons, for example, show girls how to build robots, get them to move at a dance party, or do jumping jacks

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Barbie
Barbie. Pixabay

Barbie, the world’s most iconic doll, is venturing into coding skills in her latest career as a robotics engineer.

The new doll, launched Tuesday, aims to encourage girls as young as seven to learn real coding skills, thanks to a partnership with the kids game-based computing platform Tynker, toymaker Mattel said.

Robotics engineer Barbie, dressed in jeans, a graphic T-shirt and denim jacket and wearing safety glasses, comes with six free Barbie-inspired coding lessons designed to teach logic, problem solving and the building blocks of coding.

The lessons, for example, show girls how to build robots, get them to move at a dance party, or do jumping jacks.

Four robotics engineer Barbies are seen flanked by a robot.
Four robotics engineer Barbies are seen flanked by a robot. VOA

According to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, 24 percent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) jobs were held by women in 2017.

Barbie has held more than 200 careers in her almost 60-year life, including president, video game developer and astronaut.

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Tynker co-founder Krishna Vedati said in a statement that the company’s mission to empower youth worldwide made Barbie an ideal partner “to help us introduce programming to a large number of kids in a fun engaging way.”