National University and VEX Robotics team up

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FUTURE OF SAMOA: Students who took part in the programme show off their certificates.

FUTURE OF SAMOA: Students who took part in the programme show off their certificates.

The National University of Samoa (N.U.S) marked its 3rd annual VEX Robotics Boot camp for various schools in Samoa who have committed to the Samoa Robotics Program last week. 

 The concept and program was initiated in 2014 by the NUS Faculty of Science and VEX Robotics Director Chris Hamling and Philanthropist John Hodgson.  

Learning about computers and robots during the programme.

Learning about computers and robots during the programme.

The program is highly endorsed by Peseta Dr.  Desmond Lee Hang, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Research), who continuously supports these initiatives that contribute the advancement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in schools in Samoa.

The theme of the 2016 boot camp was “No Robot? No problem!”  The camp focused on the computer software applications that are used to drive and move the robots.  

The teachers and students learned that programming can be completed in a virtual world of computer programming and then applied later to the physical, mechanical robot.  

Concepts such as ultrasonic concepts, colour, sensory and gyroscopes are now familiar terms to those who attended the VEX Robotics Boot camp this past week at the National University of Samoa Oceanside Campus.   

Chris Hamling, Director of New Zealand VEX Robotics emphasized, “This is the 3rd boot camp I have run here in Samoa and every time I am impressed with the direction and depth the teachers are able to achieve in the intense 3 day workshops.” 

 He further explained that this workshop mainly focused on using computer software and how it can be programmed to control and manipulate the robot or the mechanic devices in our world.  

Hamling commented, “The teachers were a committed group this week and their efforts will definitely be seen through their students’ successes in computers, maths and physics.”

In 2014, six colleges were chosen to participate in the first ever robotics boot camp and competition.  Since its inception, the growing interest of robotics in schools has been evident as this year the program expanded its scope to include Primary School students.  

“Nowadays, the children can easily embrace the concepts of mechanics, movements and computer applications.  

It is a familiar world to them, so using this type of medium (robots) to teach children about the mechatronic world in a hands-on, student-centred learning fashion is a progressive step in education here in Samoa”, said Suzie Schuster, NUS Robotics Committee member and advocate.  

Today mechatronics is the emerging field.  Computer software is now the basis for many mechanical items we use in our everyday lives.  Everything today has software in it- cell phones, washing machines, car functions, and even the television.  

Learning about computers and robots during the programme.
Learning about computers and robots during the programme.

Most technologies now integrate the physical mechanical appliances and the computer software together.  

Hobart Sasa, NUS Faculty of Science Lecturer and Robotics Coordinator, said “This is a vital role for NUS to facilitate.  

Bringing together teachers and students from the science field and introducing them to the field of robotics to enhance their own knowledge and skills is a perfect working model. 

NUS is a leader in current science programs and this is yet another way we can contribute to the field of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computing for the overall industry.   Seeing the interest and enthusiasm at the boot camp is the only inspiration we need to continue to offer such learning opportunities for both the teachers and the students.”  

Sasa also adds that he would like to see more schools in this training for the benefits are quite tangible.  

Students exposed to this type of training will give them a skill in writing computer applications and software for various products and mechanic devices.  

They can consider writing computer software as a viable career path.  Furthermore, teachers that are familiar with programming are valuable assets for the industrial field of mechanics, robotics, computing and mathematics.

This year, the participating schools will continue to compete on a monthly basis, using their new knowledge and skills in robot design and computer programming.  

It is envisioned that in 2017, the Samoa schools robotic competition will be a lead up for the winning school to attend the New Zealand Robotic National Championships.  

Chris Hamling further stated, “We are here for the long term, committing ourselves to field that we are passionate about.  

We know it will take a few years more to assist Samoa in creating the competition platform necessary to compete on the regional and world stage.  Each year, our boot camps are intensifying and growing. 

We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcomes thus far and look forward to more boot camps in the coming years.”   

Teachers and students from the following schools that attended were Samoa College, Robert Louis Stevenson, St Mary’s College, Fa’atuatua College, Le Amosa College, Leififi College, Samoa Primary, Aana Number 1 College.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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