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Students create robot to help them with chores

Education

 

 A team of Form Two students at Kilembwa Secondary School in Mwala work on The Lobster, a litter-collecting robot. [Rose Mukonyo, Standard]

When you mention lobster, one may think of seafood. But to Kilembwa Secondary School in Mwala Sub-County in Machakos County, The Lobster is a robot created by a group of students to collect litter around the school compound.

The students coded the robot with colour sensors to detect leaves and other litter in the school compound. They also fitted it with an arm that can pick up the litter and put it in a compartment on its back, and then programmed it to move in a particular direction to empty the litter once the cart fills up.

They did all this, thanks to coding lessons that began two weeks ago after computers were donated to their school by Kenya Connect in conjunction with Future Investments Initiatives Institute. The organisation funded three secondary schools by putting up a computer laboratory and also donating a robotic kit in each school.

Coding or computer programming is the composition of sequences of instructions that a computer can follow to perform tasks that involve designing and implementing algorithms, and step-by-step specifications of procedures, by writing code in one or more programming languages.

“I was motivated by the fact that students in many day schools are mandated to collect litter in the morning before classes begin,” says Maxwell Karanja, the student who has been leading a team of ten students in his class to code The Lobster. “This robot can help us pick litter and take it to the compost pit while we study because we take too much time doing this while we should be studying.”

Karanja, popularly known as ‘Captain by his teammates says that although it is still a work in progress, it takes passion and dedication and that they are practising to participate in the Science Fair and International Olympics for Robotics. He also urges other students with access to computers to create interest in coding as this is the future.

“It is not easy for students from remote schools to learn complex topics such as coding, but we are glad that we received this kind donation to our school because we are sure our students will leave here with the necessary computer literacy skills,” says Michael Muthama, their teacher believes that this will be a turnaround for the school’s overall performance.

Students in Kyamatula Secondary School are equally excited about the computer project in their school, and they have started working on a robot car that can automatically stop upon sensing objects on the road.

“We are making small steps in this, and it is such a privilege to be studying using computers because we feel just like students in big town schools that have plenty of resources,” says Mwendwa Mutisya, a Form 3 student.

He says they have been using computers for studying almost all subjects and that their performance has improved because they can search for definitions of terms and build their vocabulary but most importantly, they have been using them for relaxation after long hours in class.

Patience Vaati, a Form 2 student in the same school, acknowledges how computers have helped them sharpen their technology skills and made a difference in their village.

“Computers are not simply machines, but a gateway to innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration,” says James Ng’ang’a, their computer teacher, who has been helping them understand coding and robotics.

Charity Githaiga, the Principal at Kyamatula Secondary, urges more partners to onboard more schools in the computer project to benefit the larger community.

“The computers donated to the school have made a big difference in the school. Many secondary schools in Kenya are financially challenged, so if more donors come in and help, it will push Kenyan students in the right direction,” she says.

The current CBC education system has been encouraging learning by doing, and the primary schools around these secondary schools have been integrated into coding clubs.

Patrick Munguti, the Director of Education and Technology at Kenya Connect, says that with time, more schools will come on board and begin learning coding and robotics in the area.

“With the help from Future Investment Initiatives Institute, we intend to work with more schools including primary schools because currently, we have only managed to install computer labs and donate computers in only three schools donated robotic kits and trained teachers, but it would be better if we have more schools on this project,” he says.

Munguti believes that as opposed to schools in urban areas where students have easier access to gadgets such as computers, the schools that are in the villages are underprivileged and that is why Kenya Connect has been working to break down barriers to support such schools to be at par with their counterparts in the urban areas.

They donated 30 laptops to Kilembwa Secondary, 15 to Mbaikini Girls and 20 to Kyamatula Secondary, including one robotic kit per school.

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