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Robotics can enhance creativity and improve productivity amongst children

  • By Staff Writer, SAASTA
Libby: UP Robotic Librarian

Robotics are here and are going to be for quite some time. So get into it now. This is according to Peter Maleta, the Management Team Leader at Greater Tzaneen Community Foundation. Mr Maleta who has been involved in robotics since 1992 believes that robotics have a huge role to play in the development of young people in South Africa.

Robotics knowledge will enhance creativity and improve productivity of those with skills to exploit its capabilities. “For example robotics can help learners to learn measurements, calculations, shapes and resolve other mathematical problems without the need to memorization, “said Mr Maleta.

On the other hand, the youth can use robotics to skills themselves in the development and design of products and applications used in smart construction, precision farming, game development and security among other things.

The Greater Tzaneen Community Foundation has forged working relations with a variety of national and international organisations in order to bridge the gap between South Africa and the rest of world in the field of robotics development.

At the beginning of 2019, the organisation forged partnership with QUAD X 6299, a robotics team from Texas, United States of America.

“This resulted in us hosting the FIRST TECH CHALLENGE (FTC) camp for about thirty of our robotics learners financed and facilitated by QUAD X6299. The USA organisation also donated a full FTC Kit, accessories and the field, “says Mr Maleta.

The GTCF further went on to establish FTC teams and three of those teams have registered to participate in the 2020 FTC competition. The GTCF has been selected to pilot the first Discovery Robotics kit and this makes South Africa to be the only African country and third in the world selected to pilot-run the first Discovery Robotics kits. Discovery Robotics, an American company based in Pittsburgh develops the kits.

“The program is aimed at children between the ages 4-6 and currently we are piloting with more than forty learners from Mopani District Municipality in Limpopo province,” says Mr Maleta.

Maleta believes that robotics can expose young people to the capabilities of technology, research skills and address real life solutions.

“People living with disabilities, women, the elderly and children can benefit from robotic technology as the robots are able to perform routine tasks and carry out instructions in support of those target groups,” says Mr Maleta.

Mr Maleta’s wish is for South African children to universal access to robotics and other educational and technological resources. “Unfortunately, South Africa is represented in the field of robotics by mostly urban based participation with more participants coming from other races other than black African community,” says, Mr Maleta.

Mr Maleta concluded by indicating that Science Centres should be prioritised to roll out robotics in rural communities. In addition, “The Department of Basic Education should work closely with the science centres, SAASTA and other role players to fast-track the roll-out of robotics in South Africa. It would be useful to consider including coding as an official language in South African schools,” concluded Maleta.