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Advancing STEM Through Robotics Education

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Robotics engineers believe that one-third of the world’s job will be automated in the nearest future.

This, however, doesn’t mean that life will soon be like “The Jetsons.” As technological developments have done in the past, the next generation of robots utilizing artificial intelligence and automation to streamline processes currently handled with the assistance of human workers will significantly alter the job market.

This idea represents a form of disruptive innovation, a term that refers to when an emerging technology can utilize fewer resources, thus competing better against those without it.

Robots have always been a captivating piece of technology, programmable to move, make noise, light up, and follow instructions as directed. There is nothing quite as fun – and educational – as building one’s own robot and setting it through the paces of a race, an activity or a challenge.

In the school setting, robots encourage problem-solving, creative thinking, and a healthy sense of competition that drives innovation from students.

Programming and other STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts can seem very abstract, especially to younger students. Reading about technology or robotics in a book is perhaps the traditional way to learn, but putting that theory into practice by building or controlling a robot is hands-on learning that sticks around for the future. It also takes teamwork to make a robotics project run smoothly, and that’s a skill everyone needs.

To test students’ competence and mastery of robotics in Nigeria, Baun Robotics Solution in conjunction with Lawrence Technological University, USA, organized the maiden edition of Robofest to the qualifying games of robotic competition on May, 2019, at the Robofest World Championship in Michigan USA.

Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP at the robotics competition held at Dovelend International Schools, Abuja, a director at Baun Robotics Solution, Mr Femi Fadairo, said robotics education was to demystify STEM, adding students from eight schools participating in the competition were competing in the junior and senior categories.

“Robotics education is new in Nigeria and it is to bring STEM using robotics to validate scientific concepts because science and mathematics were getting so mystified, boring and we thought that by the introduction of robotics you can at least find the children plying and learning at the same time and still have their concentration in the proper place then you can easily drive home some of the concepts easily and with better grasp.

“While they are working on it they concentrate more while they are playing but if you have boring texts and books and others the concentration is not as good as when the child is enjoying what he is doing.

“So, this led to the robotics education thing and competition is one area with which you can drive a lot of the robotic activities, what they have learnt and what’s not so clear, then you bring this out and allow the children to come and showcase what they have learnt in a competition against their peers and if possible qualify from here and go represent Nigeria at the world championship that’s the long and short of our involvement,” he said.

He added that winners of the robofest competition would also cart away robotic kits, robotic devices they can take home to sharpen their skills on what they have learnt better, pointing out that most schools do not have robots or robotic apparatus in their systems yet, so it is a good way of exposure.

“This is because the robot age is here and it is imperative on these children and on us as parents to expose these children because they are going to live and work side by side with robots in this 21st century.

“If you don’t know it most of the jobs that are coming on now are robotic related, we can’t get enough of robotic engineers, technicians and what have you and unless these children are now put in the position of jobs that are available current job may not be available in the next 10 to 20 years anymore, and you will be working close by with the robots, what knowledge do you have, how can you now prevail over them? These are some of the things we as a country should endeavor to try and do now. Whether we like it or not we’re in the comity of nations and competition is one of the things. So robotic education is a must,” he stated.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP, a student of the Federal Government College (FGC), Jos, Judith Solomon competing alongside other students from her school in the senior category, said robotics was the future of the world,

She said: “Robots exist to make life easier. It will help make tasks easier depending on what you program it to do, for instance, if I program a robot to help with my household chores it does that. Robots can help in the areas that require a lot of laborers, it can carry out tasks too stressful for humans to carry out.”

Speaking in the same vein, Okoya Labib of the Whitesand Schools, competing in the junior category, averred that robots can help our society by doing the basic things we struggle to do. “Robots can’t get tired but this doesn’t mean we should become lazy, they help us do jobs that are very hard while we still do the basics and do them very well,” he contended.

A parent of one of the Doveland Schools’ participants, Rosemary Akwashiki, pointed out that robotics is the future of the world, saying it is essential for everyone, students, parents to be conversant with robotics concepts in order to fit into the future.

“Looking at what the future world is going to look like, every child, in fact everyone should be interested in robotics, coding and all. I see it as the future of the world and what every parent should encourage their kids to be involved in,” she added.


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