STEC@UKZN hosts Robotics Workshop

The Science and Technology Educational Centre (STEC) together with SAASTA TechnoYouth held a Robotics Programme on UKZN’s Westville campus.
The SAASTA TechnoYouth Educational Programme, which began as an awareness programme, is a community engagement project run by UKZN’s College of Science and Technology in collaboration with UNISA and Inspired Science and Engineering Technology (ISET). Youngsters are trained to facilitate workshops with the aim being that after attending three sessions they are able to run their own robotics workshops.
Learners are presented with a challenge and have to apply their knowledge in exercises described as being a hybrid of theory and practice.
Participating learners in the latest project were from Mayville Secondary, Wiggins Secondary and Bonela Secondary – all from the Umkhumbane Schools’ Project which promotes social transformation through improved education access in Cato Manor and Durban informal settlements.
Learners evolved from having no previous knowledge of robotics to programming robots to do specific tasks. ‘The highlight was the joy learners showed when their robots successfully laid a pipeline or removed trash from a desk,’ said STEC@UKZN co-ordinator Dr Tanja Reinhardt.
‘If you want to equip learners with 21st Century skills and the ability to solve problems, you have to start from day one, and keep moving forward,’ said Ms Patricia Gouw, a representative from SAASTA TechnoYouth Educational Programme.
Learners were intrigued by the robots. ‘The whole programme was interesting but the most memorable event for me was seeing the robot that I programmed working for me,’ said Luthando Msomi of Wiggins Secondary School.
‘Pupils had a lot to digest in the three days but it was a huge success. I hope they all learned something and will be able to tell their friends and school mates,’ said Ms Precious Ngcobo of the Umkhumbane Schools Project.
It is generally agreed that training young people for the 4th industrial revolution must include developing 21st Century skills such as problem solving, collaboration, teamwork and critical thinking. Through partnerships such as the robotics workshop, STEC@UKZN can achieve its mandate to stimulate an interest in science and engineering and arouse curiosity for further study and investigation.
Words: Samantha Ngcongo
Photograph: Sashlin Girraj