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Mang'u High school students build robot

Mang'u high school student demonstrate how a robot can be useful in industries packaging on 15th June 2024 during the accelerating AI technology innovations in Mang'u high school robotics program training of students. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

A group of tech-savvy students from Mang’u School have teamed up with their counterparts from the United States (US) to build a robotic machine that can shoot foam rings with precision into a bucket seven metres away.

A two-week interaction of more than 30 students from Mang’u High School and students from Horace Mann School in New York US built the robot from scratch.

A group of five students from a robotics team at Horace Mann School flew into Mangu for the second time after another visit in July last year to help their Mang’u counterparts complete the project.

The process that began last year after their interaction with students from Horace Mann School saw the students produce an automated machine drone that can hover in the school compound.

The Horace Mann School is among champions in robotics. Students globally have been competing as Team 5806 since 2015 in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

The competitions are meant to create Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, through the World's Leading youth-serving nonprofit Advancing STEM Education.

 As an international, student-centered celebration of robotics, FRC hosts annual competitions across the globe, through which almost ten thousand teams have built 70-kilogram, industrial-size robots capable of performing complex tasks such as driving, throwing objects, and even climbing monkey bars.

In 2023, the US school received a grant from the Alexander Capelluto Foundation, which challenges [students] to make a difference in their world by developing practical projects to improve conditions in communities of their choice.”

With this funding, we hosted a one-week series of robotics workshops at Mang’u High School in Kiambu, Kenya, covering the fundamentals of building, programming, and electrically engineering a robot.

In the programme, 30 students, ranging from Form 2 through 4, were selected by their mentor, Mr. Serem, to participate, due to their curiosity and excitement for the world of engineering, and by the end of the week last year, the Mang’u students had created a driving robot completely from scratch.

This year, the Mang’u students together with their partners expanded on the chassis built last year to build a robot that can shoot foam rings and would have been competitive in the 2024 FRC season.

“Considering that teams are given 2 months to build a robot during the official FRC season and Mang’u students accomplished this in just one week, this feat stands as a testament to their immense potential as a team,” said Sebastian Baxter, a student at Horace Mann School.

Baxter said robotics are becoming relevant in day-to-day lives.

“There are dangerous jobs like firemen’s work and even the police. People in the developed world are increasingly refusing to take risks and for sure we don't want to lose our jobs. We need them to embrace robotics so that the firemen and the police can work more in the background,” said Baxter.

Berk Yilmaz, a fellow student said it was a Robotics revolution and with technologies like Space exploration, using Mars and Venus, scientists were robots with AI to learn the situations.

“Our time as members of an FRC team stands out as one of the best experiences of our lives—an experience every student, no matter their background, should have the chance to enjoy. Through competing in FRC, Mang’u robotics students will have the unparalleled opportunity to gain firsthand experience with mechanical, electrical, and software engineering, preparing them to become international leaders in the ever-growing, cutting-edge technology industries, especially as the spheres of artificial intelligence and robotics rapidly advance.,” said Yilmaz.

Ellen Wang said they envisioned a future where robotics education is accessible to all Kenyan students, sparking a revolution in technology and innovation across the continent.

“By establishing robotics programs in schools and organizing workshops and competitions, we aim to create a vibrant ecosystem of STEM education in Kenya and beyond,” Wang said.

In 2025, Yilmaz said they wanted to establish Mang’u Robotics as the first East African team to compete in FRC formally.

 “With guidance from us available overseas, students will work five days a week to prototype, construct, wire, program, and test their robot. In mid-March, the team will travel to Istanbul, Turkey, to compete with 50 other FRC teams, with a possible chance to qualify for the World Championships in Houston, Texas, USA.

Lawyer Oiboo Morintat, an alumnus of Mang’u and a trustee of the Mang'u Foundation said robotics was the future on how companies and tech are used to solve the problems.

“We are happy the school is taking the lead on the tech that represents the future. As a country we need to embrace alongside AI and domesticate the technology to solve our problems be it in agriculture, health, or on infrastructure,” said Morintat.

Mr. Morintat said that it would cost the Mung’u about sh130,000 (1000US) per student to participate in Istanbul and hoped that the corporations including flight companies and big firms and the government would help the students realize their dreams.

Mang’u High Chief Principal John Kuria said the students were progressing well in robotics and more students in the school were picking interest in the technology.

“There are countless benefits, emerging fields, the world is changing every other time and the best thing is to ensure that the students start embracing technology from a young age. They can use the skills they are learning to solve complex tasks in the future,” said Kuria.

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