When you hear the word robotics what comes to your mind? Do you think about San Francisco’s Silicon Valley that has been home to major technological innovations over the years? Or perhaps your mind races to Detroit USA which is famous for elaborate robot manned vehicle assembly lines that work flawlessly in unison.
Well, next time, your mind should zero in on Uganda’s capital Kampala where a quiet student’s robotics skilling initiative is taking shape. This is courtesy of a social enterprise called Fundi Bots which aims to accelerate science learning among students by giving them practical robot building lessons.
“Fundi Bots is promoting better science education in schools and communities by providing hands-on, skills-based and project-oriented learning experiences.” Solomon King Benge, the founder of the firm says.
The self-trained robotics engineer wants to create a mindset shift for a generation of students by imparting robot-building skills that they can use to solve some of the societal problems in Uganda.
Lessons involve hands-on practical robotics training as well as video-based learning and presentations. The company has two regional centers and has reached 10,000 students using extracurricular programs in different schools.
As an engineer, Benge’s interest in science started after he picked up a dusty book ‘The Engineer In Wonderland by E.R Laithwaite’ from his school library. This explained themes like electromagnetism using an easy-to-understand approach.
“We can extend science learning beyond the material mandated by the curriculum. And in doing so we can create an environment in which students thrive not because the education structure demands it but because their curiosity drives their learning.” Solomon said.
The social enterprise also organizes two-week holiday camps where robotics concepts are taught and students are given an implementation period to build a robot by the end of the camp.
Students are also encouraged to use recycled materials and locally available components like microphones and electric motors from toys. Robot building is the central learning tool used by Fundi Bots because it is a fun activity that many students are likely to enjoy.
Additionally, students learn computer programming as it is the means of giving commands to the robots which they interpret and act on.
The enterprise which is located on Kaduyu road in Kampala accepts students as young as six and shows them how robots can be used to solve real-world problems.