The high school students have broken off into five groups of six and picked team names like The Decepticons, The Autobots and Predators.
They are participating in Uganda’s first-ever robotics camp, a weeklong crash course where students learn how to apply their classroom science lessons into building a robot.
“The process of building a robot encompasses so much critical thinking, so much scientific innovation,” said the camp’s founder, Solomon King.
“It opens these kids to a whole new dimension of thought, of understanding, of creativity. They look at the world through a whole different lens the next time they are thinking about solutions to their issues.”
In addition to this week’s camp, King also founded Fundi Bots, a local organization that focuses on solving technical problems through education.
King’s personal journey in science speaks to his passion about the hands-on experience. During his studies at Kyambogo University, he dropped out of his science technology class because it was too theoretical. “What I wanted to study was something that allowed me to build and create with my hands,” he said.
Besides the camp, Fundi Bots holds robotics outreach programs in schools that help children realize how their physics homework can lead to solving real-life problems. “A lot of what happens in schools, it’s just academia and they’re doing these lessons, these courses, they’re reading just to be able pass these exams at the end of the day,” said King.
But when they have an opportunity to use the information to create something, he says “there’s that moment when they realize that ‘ah!’ all that stuff that I was learning in classroom is actually extremely relevant in the real world.” He said this motivates the students to pay more attention to their studies.
King’s organization recently received a Google RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Award, and King said they will use the $9,000 in prize money to expand their programs into additional schools.