FABlab helps youth build robotics and learn about tech-innovation
The future of Namibia is tied to how agile we are when it comes to embracing the right technology and fostering a new, savvy, leadership pool in Namibia.
The rise of robots is unstoppable, with drones filling the air, the seabed and nanotechnology are just a few clear examples. Some people, even academics and scientists may might think this is not in Namibia’s future, the Design and Technology Centre of the Namibia University of Science and Technology, FABlab, says otherwise.
To facilitate this vision and making it into a reality, Namibia University of Science and Technology’s FABlab hosts and sponsors a weekly robotics class, this year’s participants are learners from the Physically Active Youth (PAY) Centre in Katutura, Windhoek.
This stimulating and developing Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) skills for Namibia’s future leaders, is just one way that the forward-thinking and innovative FABlab is promoting real innovation.
The PAY classes are in their sixth week and have seen a group of 12 learners aged between 8 and17 years old learn the basics of coding and building robots. The eager learners use critical thinking and engineering design processes to solve problems and complete tasks that involve operating the robots to move, lift, push and pull objects.
The learners are embracing future technologies and involving them in fields such as robotics from a young age is a way of equipping and shaping the future of the country. These youth are giving up their weekends are actively learning new hands-on skills and are being provided new opportunities which will contribute to the economy.
FABlab Namibia is bridging the digital divide; engaging the youth to follow education in these cutting-edge spheres, build new robots and acquire these STEAM skills at the same time. These kids will be the future engineers, innovators and inventors who may just turn out to be the new breed of talented tech-entrepreneurs that Namibia needs.
Bjorn Wiedow, Industrial Designer and co-founder of FABlab said,“The physical space of FABlab was alive with robots this past weekend with two back-to-back youth robotics introductory sessions taking place. A total of 32 local youth gained hands-on experience with the LEGO EV3 robotics kits. They spent 6 hours programming, coding and controlling their robots to do a series of tasks.”
“The bigger picture, as to why we have embarked on robotics youth outreach this year is part of the vision to have a countrywide robotics competition with many teams competing. Ultimately our aim is then to have the winning teams go and represent the country at the annual World Robotics Olympiad,” added Wiedow.
The kits used at FABlab for the youth training are part of the global dynamite LEGO Group, and the robots which the learners developed during the longer course have the addition of sensors such as ultra-sonic, infra-red and touch sensors.
The addition of motors and sensors gives the creator the possibility of building anything, the possibilities are endless when innovation and technology are involved with robot building. Engineering and ICT degree students at NUST have also benefited by mentoring younger teams and have even taken their robotics skills further, having developed robotic arms and drones as part of projects at FABlab.