The Fundi Bots team, supported by Oysters and Pearls, spent two very intense weeks in Gulu for our third Robotics Training camp. From the 10th to the 25th of January, we had amazing time teaching electronics, computing, robotics and overall STEM classes to a group of more than 30 students. It was a full holiday camp, so we had lots of exciting activities for the students as well.
Below are the highlights from the training, written during the training by our founder and lead trainer, Solomon King.
Despite initial hiccups with power, we got off to a great start. We taught computing basics to get kids oriented with commands and basic file management.
Afterwards, we jumped into Scratch and in a few hours, had transitioned the students from complete newbies to simple game developers. We covered scripts, syntax, variables, random numbers and if statements.
For the night session (7-9pm), we ran through what we call extra-curriculars and showcased flying machines like quadcopters and a fairy princess. Then touched briefly on Lego building.
Tomorrow, we start with basic electronics, led by Victor Paul. The extra-curriculars will be more engaging, with gaming, cubelets, more flying machines, flight simulation and Lego.
The kids are soo excited, and the trainers even more so. This is the longest, most intense and most fun training Fundi Bots has carried out.
The reason why we split students into groups is primarily to encourage team-work. But we also know that not everyone is an all round genius. Within these groups are future mechanical and structural engineers, electronics wizards, computer scientists and programmers.
Furthermore, we believe that as the program grows and the robotics clubs mature and students meet more frequently, we’ll see the emergence of more structured roles like future project managers, team leaders, researchers and business development managers.
And that is why I believe in Fundi Bots so much. It’s not necessarily about the robotics per se, but about the person the student becomes during the process; the shift in mindset, the discovery of possibilities and the realization that community issues around them can be solved in much simpler and creative ways than what they expected.
But even then, what we teach is a practical, modern companion to the (many times outdated) theory in the classrooms. And several times, we have had students and teachers come up and tell us how our program has helped them learn and teach the official classroom curriculum better.
And that makes us infinitely prouder of the work we are doing.
Fundi Bots is about robots, yes, but it is far bigger than the machines we build, and far, far bigger than ourselves.
We’ve spent the last 6 days reinforcing multiple concepts over and over again, using local examples and scenarios, asking students to strive to understand the material and the reasoning behind each single step, and to always ask, ask, ask. And it has paid off.
We’ve just finished doing a quick weekly review and the speed at which they are picking up is unbelievable.
They’ve been demonstrating programming on the computers, drawing electronic circuits and components on the blackboard and basically owning the entire learning process.
We are truly humbled and priviledged to be working with such passionate minds.
Our challenge for each group this week is to identify 10 problems and challenges within their families, communties and schools, and provide possible solutions using the material they have learnt, which we will review next week.
Tonight, however, we are taking a break to watch movies! About robots, of course!
Their last assignment is a creative one: To use what they have learned to create something fun with the robots. It’s an unguided and purely fun experiment.
Some of the ideas are very ambitious, and watching it all reminds me of these three quotes:
“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”
― Galileo Galilei
“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
― Albert Einstein
“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveller of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you.”
― George Bernard Shaw
This Robotics training in Gulu was the longest and most intense training we have ever done. The student exhibitions went well, students went and above beyond the final assignment, impressing teachers and parents alike.
Spending 2 weeks on our feet for 14-16 hour days was a stark reminder that the work we do is an uphill task, but one that we must do nonetheless.
I could not ask for anything more from my team. They have given selflessly, tirelessly and unwaveringly, despite the insane schedule and huge demands.
And to our sponsor and biggest fan, thank you.
We have sown seeds, and we will nurture and water them and we will push harder, all over the country and all over Africa.
We believe in our students and we know they will change the world around them, and no matter how few they may eventually be, we will go to the ends of the earth to find them.