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Jun 25, 2019

Introducing Robotics to Primary School Children

A robotic coding programming has become a big hit among young tech savvy students. The Belize High School, which has been pioneering the programme, is holding a summer camp that has attracted some forty students from five schools. It exposed them to the fundamentals of programming by applying mathematics and problem solving skills.  The aim is to reach students from all over the country. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The Belize High School is on the path to establish the first of its kind national robotics competition in Belize. Following its successful representation of the country last August at the international competition, FIRST Global, the institution has been tasked by the Ford Inspiration Recognition of Science and Technology to introduce robotics to students, starting at the primary school level. So, this past Saturday, students from five Belize City based schools were exposed to the fundamentals, including Lego building and basic coding to move the robots.

 

Jamie Lee Usher

Jamie Lee Usher, Principal, Belize High School

“We looked at the elementary curriculum as it comes to coding and programming with ages nine to twelve year olds learning about Lego, learning about coding, learning about programming here in Belize for the first time ever in order to compete in a national competition. So what we did, we went out and we shopped for kits from FIRST last year, called Into Orbit, and we brought forty kids. We invited forty kids to come to our campus last Saturday so that we could teach them about building and working with the robots using science, technology, engineering and math.”

 

About forty students are in the initial group benefiting from the programme. And if you are thinking that the concept of robotics is way too advanced for young children, think again.  The building robots and programming them to move is about applying basic Mathematics, problem-solving skills and following instructions. And with children already into gadgets, interfacing with I-pads and the like, nine-year-old Sophia Usher says it’s about having a positive attitude.

 

Sophia Usher

Sophia Usher, Student

“I programmed this robot to do something that is called…so it is supposed to go over there, and then turn and then go back to where it says “Into Orbit.” And then I have to make sure that it goes the right way. If it crashes, then I have to fix it again and I would have to go into my I-pad and fix it…again, I have to change the degrees and the speed and where it needs to go.”

 

While Sophia was about coding and programming, eleven-year-old Daniel Sharp loves building with Lego, an advance form of the children’s toy that we know.

 

Daniel Sharp

Daniel Sharp, Standard 4 Student

“When I build Legos, I think a little bit bigger. I use my imagination when I am building from scratch. Some people built this from using instructions, but I can build things without instructions. I’ve built things from scratch.”

 

Duane Moody

“What practice you had doing that?”

 

Daniel Sharp

“Well, since I was young. I’ve been building Legos since I as four. When I first use a Lego, I would build it then I would break it later. But now, I have a shelf in my room and that’s where I store my Legos. It hasn’t been a waste of time for me; it gives me better education and this robot is a great piece of technology and building blocks. I would call it, “Lego Building, the building blocks of my mind.”

 

Godfrey Sosa, who is the head of the Information Technology Department at Belize High School, says that in some ways, the programme prepares students from an early age for career opportunities in this field.

 

Godfrey Sosa

Godfrey Sosa, Head of IT Department, Belize High School

“When we talk about robotics, we think maybe it is farfetched because we are in Belize, but one of the things that we are trying to do here at Belize High School is trying to shift that mentality in terms of thinking that not because we are from Belize we can’t be exposed to these things. You see the idea of education is actually offering opportunities to kids, offering diverse opportunities. So we are moving away from the traditional okay I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a doctor or so on. We have kids now studying robotics in Mexico, which is a field called mechatronics. Now this is something farfetched from what we, as a reality, had thought of as a career. We actually have kids studying robotics engineering. we have some actually going into artificial intelligence with robotics from Belize. So getting this exposure at this level offers for different opportunities, career opportunities for Belizeans.”

 

According to Principal Jamie Lee Usher, the end goal is to have a national competition among the students. The ongoing summer programme targets five schools, but there is a call for one school from every district to sign up of the robotics project.

 

Jamie Lee Usher

“This is a great project and I hope that once this is put nationally, people will contact us about working with us because we would love for schools to be able to come here to Belize City and register maybe for as low as fifty dollars and be able to take home the mat, the kit, the robot and their homework would be to get another school involved. So the point of this is passing it on. So we are doing this for free; we are going out there, begging everybody I can think of in order to get this going so that we can have this shared across the country.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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