As part our ongoing initiatives to expose learners to career possibilities in STEM, Girls Invent Tomorrow (GIT) partnered with the UJ TechnoLab on 12 March 2016 to host an introductory Robotics workshop. Learners from New Jerusalem Children’s Home were invited to attend the session that was facilitated by Michael Ettershank, a professor from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Johannesburg.
Coach Michael, as he’s asked to be called, introduced learners about the role of Math and Science in Engineering then specifically on robots and how they could command them to perform various functions.
After the brief talk, learners received the opportunity to work with mini educational robots known as the AfrikaBOT. They participated in a challenge to command the robots to move in a maze using special commands that they had to configure in teams of two. Progress was slow at the beginning, however, soon the learners started to grasp how to command their robots and successfully complete the maze without touching sides.
The atmosphere was filled with determination to get the robots working with some of the learners even refusing to take a lunch break.
As the day progressed, Michael played videos depicting different ways of programming robots using code as opposed to the graphic user interface that got them started earlier.
He encouraged the learners to work hard at school, aim for 100% and not 30% that is regarded as a minimum pass grade in the current education system. Learners were encouraged to start an engineering club, which they decided to call the NJCH Engineering Club which is now planning to enter the AfrikaBOT16 competition.
Overall, the day was a success, with all the children hardly able to contain their excitement at learning something new and fun. Some of them were heard to be considering a future where they will work with robots.