Pretoria - Stressing the importance of playing – but more importantly “playful learning” – was a major objective of the Lego Foundation when it hosted the National Robot Olympiad at the Tshwane University of Technology on Saturday.
Children aged between seven and 16 from across Gauteng excitedly put together the robots using Lego materials, RoboLab and NXT-G software.
Keegan Osborne, 12, one the contestants at the Olympiad, said: “I’ve always liked technology.
“We’re in third place, so we just have to make the robot work quickly,” Keegan said.
In the competition the children had to build a robot and programme it so that it could complete given tasks.
And they needed to complete this in the shortest time possible.
The Olympiad was spearheaded by Hands-On Technologies in conjunction with World Robot Olympiad (WRO) SA, The Lego Foundation and the Department of Education.
The children were entered through their clubs or societies.
They had to compete against each other to get the highest score in the shortest time.
The next stage would be to participate in the national competition.
Those who succeeded at national level would get the opportunity to represent South Africa at the World Robot Olympiad in Jakarta, Indonesia, in November.
Brent Hutcheson, one of the directors of Hands-On Technologies, said: “We run a programme in Atteridgeville called Township Robotics and it is to teach robotics to about 106 children.”
Hutcheson said the aim was to change the way science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects were viewed and to encourage pupils through robotics.
World Robot Olympiad representative Claus Christensen said: “This competition was started because Lego education wanted to give kids a chance to get interested in science, hence it was decided that WRO be independent of the Lego Foundation.”
The competition started in 2004 with a few countries involved, but it has now grown to more than 4 000 teams from six countries competing against each other.
“Kids are not allowed time to play because they have to sit down and learn, yet playing is crucial in the learning process,” said Casper Jensen of the Lego Foundation.
“The aim is that all kids should have their hands on Lego from the primary phase because Lego is a good tool to learn and play.”
Leon Fourie from the Department of Education said although they had only started with three robotics centres in Atteridgeville so far, the portfolio committee of Gauteng was looking into including other townships, starting with Mamelodi. - Pretoria News