Getting children interested in science subjects can seem as hard as getting them to eat their greens. But one Dubai-based organisation has a new ruse: using the chance to build and play with robots to spark interest in the science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) subjects that underpin how robotics work.
The first specialised robotics centre in Dubai, Fun Robotics aims to get children aged seven to 14-years-old to learn mechanical and electrical concepts, as well as programming and design, over the course of a 15-hour or two week programme.
Crucially, Fun Robotics hopes to make children see that science is exciting. By getting kids to build their own robots and solve problems, the centre aims to unleash youngsters’ natural creativity and nurture a life-long love of STEM-related subjects.
“Robotics will be one of the most important careers in the future,” says Lubna Taji, founder of Fun Robotics. “In the future I think it will be essential for everyone to know how robots move or interact; the main things that make them sense things and how to programme them.”
So far around 100 children have experienced Fun Robotics’ programmes. The courses range from attaching simple sensors and motors to robots for the youngest category (7-year-olds), renewable energy and pneumatics for ‘Advanced Machine Wiz’ students (10-year-olds) to teaching text-based programming in the Robot C course using LEGO Mindstorms kits (14-year-olds and up). Most of the centre’s students so far have been in the younger age categories, between seven and 11-years-old, says Taji.
To keep children engaged, Fun Robotics has participated in regional robot competitions since 2012, including the UAE National Robotics Challenge – the qualifying round for the World Robot Olympiad, a LEGO Mindstorms-based robotics competition.
Last year’s team won a prize in the regular category at junior high level under the theme Robots in Space. Ibrahim Abedelrahman, 12, and Karan Tulsani, 13, represented Fun Robotics with their robot, Sputnik, designed to collect space debris. Taji hopes to repeat the success at this year’s challenge in September, this time under the theme Robot Explorers.