ROBOTIC LEAGUES: Kenyan students shine in America

Green Gardens School students shine in robot contest

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Inside the Green Gardens Girls High School laboratory in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, Form Four students Eliza Gathoni and Leah Wambui create robots using plastic materials spread out on a table during a science lesson.

On the next table, their classmates Faith Wambui and Marilyn Cheptoo are glued to laptops working to programme already assembled robots so that they can perform various tasks.

The school has since 2010 been using robots to teach their students Science, Technology and Mathematics (Stem) lessons, where they integrate the subjects with ICT.

Teachers say it makes learning not only easy but also full of fun.

The robots are assembled using Lego – tiny pieces of plastic made with either studs or holes to fit into each other to form one whole unit.

Managing Director Captain Mugo Keiyoro says the use of robots makes students work with logical and effective ways that foster scientific reasoning and critical thinking, which may not be guaranteed in theoretical learning.

ROBOTIC LEAGUES

After years of using robotics in learning, the manager enrolled for robotic leagues, where the students compete with other schools in assembling and programming robots. They have competed in local and regional contests.

And last month, unknown to many Kenyans, 10 students from the school flew the Kenyan flag high in Houston, Texas, after bagging a trophy in an international robotics competition.

It was the first time a school from Kenya was participating in the event.

The students, who were representing East Africa, scooped the Judges’ Award in the April 18 event, making them the only African school to win in a competition dominated by institutions from developed countries.

“We were able to use the next-generation robotic programme which was being used a long time ago even though we have the modern programme, which other schools were using,” says Michelle Wangui, a student who participated in the event.

330,000 ENTRIES

The competition attracted about 330,000 entries from across the world. Africa was represented by six countries: Kenya, representing East and Central Africa, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

A school from Brazil won a trophy for being the best in robot design while another from the US bagged the core value team prize.

Mr Pascal Muchanji, the students’ coach, said the girls were phenomenal in the robotic challenge that entails assembling and programming and which requires a lot of creativity and innovation. It also needs keen research on the project theme and core values.

From the projects, the students said they not only enhanced their understanding in learning but also acquired other skills such as communication skills, team work, tolerance and time management.

ROBOTIC KITS

The team, dubbed Green Panthers used the Lego Mindstorms NTX, which is a programmable robotic kit released by Lego in 2006, but which has since been replaced by EV3 Lego kits, through which they displayed their finesse in using robots to accomplish different missions.

This also saw them ranked at position 105 overall out of the 330,000 schools, and also the best in Africa.

The competition which the students won was themed around solving the problem of supplying water in a rural set up. Competitors were expected to come up with a cheap and easily accessible water system.

They had to first identify the importance of clean water, highlight the solutions of recycling and purifying dirty water and design a system of recycling water.

The team designed a drainage system that transports sewerage from a small community to a treatment plant, where a hole is dug and fitted with a plastic sheet that filters all the discharge.

CLEAN WATER

With this, the community can have access to clean water from their urine by converting it to clean drinking water while the residue is used as manure for their farms.

The idea behind it was that urine will evaporate under sunlight and later condense because of the green foliage fitted in the system.

They then designed and marked a rural se up on a mat, assembled Legos to create the facilities in a typical village as well as structures required for the system to operate.

They included homes, latrines, drainage systems, roads, and a treatment plant — structures which were built using the Legos.

They also built and programmed robots which were supposed to demonstrate how the whole system should be assembled and operated.

-nation.co.ke

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