From the Series
Could teaching Uganda's youth about robotics bring real change to the developing nation? Amateur roboticist Solomon King Benge is faced with this question when trying to secure funding for Fundi Bots, an organisation that uses robotics training in African schools to create and inspire a new generation of problem solvers, innovators and change-makers.
Since its inception, Fundi Bots has grown from four schools to 20 schools. The organisation now provides training and mentorship to around 2000 students in its in-school and public access programmes. According to Benge, the programme focusses on three main training areas; mechanical engineering, computer programming, and electrical engineering. While this may sound like the heavy duty curriculum of a university student, the Fundi Bots initiative teaches students these principles by guiding them through the process of building a simple robot.
“The idea is transition education, especially science education, from less of a memorisation or cramming system into something that’s more proactive and interactive,” says Benge.
With its in-school programme, Fundi Bots provides students with access to training and resources at schools. The training includes speaker presentations, interactive talks, case studies, hands-on robotics training, the establishment of permanent robotics clubs, and the establishment of holiday campus - a crash course on robotics.
Benge explains that the success of the in-school programme depends on the school’s willingness to accommodate the initiative.
Its public access programme is targeted at children who are not enrolled in regular classes. The initiative provides an open, customisable space for children to engage and learn from teachers, mentors, and interactive presentations.
“Basically, we call it a Fundi space and it’s a space for education, learning, collaboration and product development,” Benge adds.
The modular space can be adapted to the programme’s needs. It was built with foldable screens and only one closed off space, ensuring that the space promotes an open, interactive environment.
“During classes the areas are closed off, but when the classes are done the lab opens up,” says Benge. “The entire Fundi space becomes a lab.”
As for fundraising, Benge says it’s been a process of convincing stakeholders of the programme’s worth and so far, it’s yielded good results. The real challenge will be to convince the government to back the initiative, a process Benge believes could take ten years.