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Nigerians in Diaspora: Silas Adekunle — UK-based Nigerian Robotics Engineer

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At a time when Nigeria is trying to catch up with the technological advancement of developed nations, one of her own, 26-year-old Silas Adekunle, is taking over the robotics world with his ingenuity and innovation. Surprisingly, this Nigerian born genius who now is the highest paid robotic engineer in the world has not only written his name in gold  but now poses as a breath of fresh air in the robotic world.

Silas Adekunle is a 26-year old Nigerian who is scaling heights in the technological realm, especially in the field of robotics. This Lagos born  Nigerian, was educated for a better part of his life in Nigeria. Upon finishing his secondary school education as a teenager, Silas relocated to UK and went on to study Robotics in the University of the West of England.

He graduated with a first class degree from this prestigious university. After his graduation, Silas founded a technological company called Reach Robotics. Established in 2013, the organisation specialises in fusing gaming and augmented reality to perform real world functions. In a desperate bid to expand his knowledge on the science of robotics, the 26-year-old genius  took up an advanced study for over four years.

While learning and gaining more experience in his chosen field, Silas took up a leadership position as the team leader of Robotics in Schools. A programme, which encouraged and paid attention to students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Hence, he was also able to impact lives and develop younger, aspiring technologists via the programme. Adekunle  in the course of engaging these youths developed  the idea of helping STEM students know their onions through revolutionising the science of robotics.

This idea which budded over time has gone on to birth the world’s first gaming robot called MekaMon. MekaMon was born in 2017 and apart from many other advantages, the gaming bot has been built in a way that it can be customized to the users’ taste and made to perform several functions that are personal to users.

Though many were skeptical about Mekamon when it was launched, about 500 bots were eventually sold and this generated about $7.5 million.

Given this great success, Silas Adekunle has gone on to garner the partnership and support of giant organisations like London Venture Partners who contributed N360 million to his project.

Even more, his company, Reach Robotics, signed a deal with Apple securing exclusive sales in several Apple stores.

From a very humble beginning and grueling start, Silas has made quite a name for himself and he is now well recognised by individuals and bodies around the world.

Not only was he acknowledged as someone to watch in 2018 by the Black Hedge Fund Group, he has also been listed in the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe: Technology.

Although the net worth of the genius is not known in figures, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that Adekunle is now the highest paid robotics engineer in the world. He has also been described as the smartest robotics engineer.

He was able to achieve this milestone accomplishment after he signed a deal with Apple Inc. The company was awed by the quality of his robots and “their ability to show emotion with subtly-calibrated movements. So, Apple priced his four-legged “battle-bots” at $300 and has put them in nearly all of its stores in the United States and Britain.

The robotics engineer was also named as “Someone to Watch in 2018” by the Black Hedge Fund Group, according to reports by thebossnewspapers.com.

In an interview with Forbes, Silas shared how his passion to make learning more entertaining for kids stirred him to success: “Early customers skew towards male techies but a growing number of parents are buying the robots for their children to get them interested in STEM.”

Through training and constant refining, Adekunle improved immensely from his teenage experiments, which included (as detailed in the Forbes interview), a robotic hand made out of baked beans cans, and a robotic face (based on the Kismet robot of MIT’s Dr Cynthia Breazeal) that had tennis balls for eyes and rolled-up pieces of paper for ears.

In 2013 Adekunle met Christopher Beck, co-founder and CTO of Reach Robotics. They partnered and develop Mekamon, the world’s first gaming robot.

His words, “When I went into robotics, I really loved motion,” Adekunle told Forbes. “People are used to clunky robots, and when you make it realistic, people either love it or they’re freaked out.”

To this end the gaming bot has a special feature that allows the user to customise it to perform personalised functions. Its initial launch saw the sale of 500 bots, generating US$7.5 million.

“Everyone told us it was too complicated and expensive and no one would buy it,” Christopher Beck told Forbes. “Toy manufacturers who were stuck in their ways were saying ‘You have to make it as cheap as possible. People will play with it for five minutes, then break it.’”

No one, he adds, has dared to be as bold as they have been. “There are a few legged robots but they scuttle and don’t walk,” he continued. “Or they walk in a way that you can’t animate. We animate this robot.”

Also, one portion of the Mekamon clientele includes parents who are trying to encourage their children towards the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – and what better way than an interactive game bot.

This is a payoff that Adekunle hoped for back in 2013, when he became a team leader of the Robotics in Schools programme. This programme encourages and pays attention to promising students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He said that it was during this time that he decided to develop robotics that would make education more entertaining for potential or practicing STEM students.

The inventive scientist who presently lives and learns at the Bristol Robotics Lab which is said to be the best robotics research centre in the UK said that the secrets to his success are balance, sharing ideas, proper time management and being himself.

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