Vinay – My ‘Build a Bot’ Internship

Inkwenkwezi - Build a Bot

Students at Inkwenkwezi receive their Build a Bot certificates

My internship at Beyond Education began in early June 2012 and after six weeks that passed far too quickly, my time in South Africa is at an end. During my stay, my main task was to help learners in the Cape Town area to better understand science and technology. I had the privilege of working with a number of Cape Town schools and organizations during my stay, the first of which was Bloubergrant High School. At Bloubergrant, I worked with matriculate students in the natural science class by reviewing their physics and chemistry exams with them. It was wonderful to work with such eager and respectful students.

Following my time at Bloubergrant, I ran a week-long robotics program with a group of six learners at Inkwenkwezi Secondary School. The students learned about engineering and computer programming all while building a series of increasingly complicated and ornate robots (details of this project can be found here).

After Inkwenkwezi, I spend some time assisting with a winter Lego robotics workshop sponsored by ORT TECH, which prepared two teams of middle school students to enter the Robot Olympiad competition. In addition to interacting with the young engineers, I observed the way they went about constructing and tuning their designs and gained insight into what types of projects and challenges would be appropriate for a robotics interest party with children in the same age group.

During my final week in South Africa, I visited the TRAC lab at Stellenbosch University where top students from a number of Cape Town high schools were participating in an intensive, week-long science lab program. In addition to interacting with the students on a personal level, I was able to help them in their construction and understanding of AC and DC circuits.

Although my time in Cape Town has been brief, the experiences I’ve had have been richly informative and invigorating. It has been an absolute pleasure to work for Beyond Education and I wish them nothing but great success in all their future projects and endeavors.

Build a Bot 25th – 29th June

Build a Bot

Working in groups of 3 programming and adjusting the robot.

On Monday 25th June, a group of six learners at Inkwenkwezi Secondary School started a week-long Lego robotics course called Build a Bot. The course, which is in its second year of operation, encourages learners to apply what they’ve learned in science, math, and technology classes in an engaging, hands-on, and fun way.

During the week, the learners build multiple robots, discovering some of the basic tenets and challenges of engineering along the way (such as how to use scaffolding to improve stability and how to use gears to transfer power). They also accomplish a series of both simple and complicated tasks by programming their robots using visually stimulating software, thus encouraging them to think logically and deliberatively about what steps are involved in performing certain actions.

Build a Bot 2

Nyameko, Ngayeka & Sabelo doing a little programming

After three days, the learners have built a total of nine robots, programmed them to trace out a square and a Christmas tree design, and even learned how to use robotic sensors to navigate an obstacle course. While the program has undoubtedly been challenging, the participants rose to the occasion and demonstrated great perseverance, creativity, and teamwork in working with tools entirely new to them.

For the next two days, the learners will be refining their programming and engineering skills and writing more complex code to allow their robots to perform more interesting tasks. It has, indeed, been a fruitful journey so far, and I anticipate the last few days of the program will be equally if not more rewarding for these hardworking learners.

Written by Vinay Trivedi-Parmar. 27th June 2012.

Inkwenkwezi Secondary School

1. Andisiwe Mahlafana
2. Nyameko Skoti
3. Zezenkosi Hintsa
4. Ngayeka Yongama
5. Sabelo Sifuba
6. Wendy Blom

Build a Bot – Techno Joy!

Well the Build a Bot week long course is over, it ran from the 11th to the 15th of July and went off smashingly.

The 3 teams and their robots

The 3 teams and their robots

The week long course ran in the last week of the school holidays and we had six young evil geniuses ready to build robots to conquer the world. With a mix of lessons on building, designing and programming the students were soon creating robots to deal with the furious challenges I laid before them. Working in teams of two the guys built robots to deal with different problems, from precision robot movement all the way through to using advanced sensors like the ultrasonic sensor to detect the distance of obstacles and light sensors to detect and follow lines.

A robot on the course

Their final challenge threw all the concepts together and had them build a robot to collect a series of loops and columns, all the while having to avoid knocking over walls or collectable items (Which would lose them points). The designs were all different. From a munching robot that used big jaws to “eat” all the collectables (its giant mouth/claw was truly fierce), to a team that collected rings with a long spike and used a massive boom to pick up the columns. The winning team, however, favoured simplicity and structurally outstanding design. It collected the rings with a long 2 pronged “arm” that would lift to keep the loops secure. Once these had been returned to base, and extension piece was added to make the arm into a raking claw that collected the columns.

All in all great fun was had by all. A big thanks to Christopher Lanis Who helped out with robot design (he is the designer that won the Elkanah team the first prize in robot design nationally in the Lego League competition) and a big thanks to all the Students who participated, it was great to see how much you learned and the great robots you made.

Build a Bot – Presentation Day!

The 3 teams and their robots

Leandro Del Mistro, Joshua du Plooy, Daniela Aldera, Jason Di Leva, Kalvin Sutherland and Jeremiah Chirwa

Robot on the circuit

One of the teams putting their robot through its paces.

The Build a Bot Programme ran from the 11th to the 15th of July during the Winter School holidays. We had a group of 6 students, Joshua du Plooy, Daniela Aldera, Jason Di Leva, Leandro Del Mistro, Kalvin Sutherland and Jeremiah Chirwa, who attended the programme. Their facilitator was Jonathan Schoots, assisted by Chris Lanis, the Robot designer of the team who won best robot design for the South Africa Lego League Competition.

Let me start by saying how wonderfully well they all did! And what great team spirit and comradeship.

There was much excitement buzzing around the room as the 3 teams aimed to finish programing their robots, to complete the circuit, they had planned and worked on that week. They each made last minute adjustments and at 12.30 they were all asked to stop. One by one their parents arrived and the presentation began.

Each team set their Robots off on the course and it was with much ooohhs and aahhhs as the on lookers watched the robots pick up rings, push bricks and maneuver columns. The teams were judged on their projects by Jonathan and Chris and after a few words and checking of scores, a winning team was decided upon. Well done to all the participants! It certainly seems that a good time was had by all.

Jonathan, the kids all agreed you made the week for them! Great stuff!

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