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Robotics team hopes to bag a trophy at national competitions

Robotics team from Nyameru secondary school in Nyamira County is optimistic to bag a trophy at the National Science and Engineering competitions being held in Kisumu this week.

Jackline Kwamboka and Aron Keng’ara, a duo team in form four from Nyameru Sub County day school, have gradually build their expertise in robotics since form two and qualifying to participate in the national robotics competitions with other ‘well established and facilitated’ teams countrywide is more than an achievement to them.

Aron revealed to KNA that he does not have any computer at home but goes to his grandfather’s house who owns a desktop to practice some programming skills in his free time especially during weekends after finishing his homework and house chores assigned by his parents.

His robotic partner, Jackline, says she utilizes the games period to practice programming using the computers in school before they break to go home in the evening because she equally does not have a computer at home.

“I utilize my games time adequately to learn programming and build the robot because it is the only time I have for practice and during holidays, I visit Mobembe Technical Institute, adjacent to our home, to use the institution’s computers for practice especially in programming robots.”

She stated that this is an activity that requires internal drive, passion and regular practice for one to enjoy it, improve on one’s programming skills and gain the confidence to showcase your skills through competitions like the ones they shall compete in this week.

The duo acknowledged a lot of support from their patron Mr. Zachary Momanyi, their biology and chemistry teacher who equally has a lot of passion in computer programming and who decided to assist them achieve their dream of understanding robotics despite the challenge of accessing or procuring personal computers for use at home for regular practice.

Mr. Peter Kengára, father to Aron said his son has passion and talent in engineering revealing that the first smartphone he bought when Aron was in class 8, was spoiled by the boy barely a month into using it. He said Aron dismantled all its segments apart leaving it non- functional explaining that he was studying its operating system.

“Aron makes very many fascinating models from waste metal and plastic pieces at home during his leisure time and he goes an extra mile to operationalize some using normal torch or clock batteries. There was a time he made a moving mini excavator, and the toy marveled so many in our village and beyond. I have learnt to understand him, accept his crazy innovations and wish that his passion will bear fruit to make him a great person from my family,” said Aron’s father.

Peter has not managed to afford a personal computer for his son but he has made arrangements with his uncle where Aron goes to use his desktop computer to undertake his programming assignments.

Though Aron’s father wanted him to be a secondary school science teacher, he said he is gradually accepting his dream career in engineering or Artificial Intelligence (AI), a course he acknowledges he does not fully understand what it entails but wishes him well in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations (KCSE) to excel and pursue his career of choice.

Jackline’s father, Moses Osoro revealed to KNA that Jackie has a lot of passion in computer studies but he is a meagre peasant farmer who struggles to fend for his family of five children and totally unable to provide her needs which are outside the most basic in his studies.

“I allow her to visit Mobembe Technical Institute, adjacent to my home, where she can be able to work with the compute for I cannot afford to procure one for her at the moment due to more pressing basic family needs which are of priority like paying for her school fees and that of her siblings,” she told KNA

“I am optimistic that she will excel in her KCSE exams studies so that she can also pursue her career. She wants to undertake medical engineering and hope it will bring with it numerous opportunities for her to explore and her passion be rewarded,” Moses wished.

The team’s patron told KNA that qualifying to compete at the national level is no mean achievement considering the disadvantaged background of his team. He revealed that it has only been made possible courtesy of support from various institutions of good will and the school administration as competing with national schools at the county and regional level and still defeating them is not easy.

“Our competitors are already established, adequately facilitated and supported and have enrolled the crème de la crème performers from various primary schools countrywide which is totally opposite of the nature of students we enroll in our sub county school. We want to prove to the nation that our team’s dream of programming robots despite our humble background is valid and we want to pursue them up to the international levels,” patron Momanyi affirmed.

“The robotic kit was donated to the school by Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with 11 other day secondary schools countrywide accompanied with 5 desktops and one laptop because their high cost was beyond the school’s capacity to procure them. These donations motivated students to develop a liking for robotics thus forming a robotics club and embarking on serious robot programming by club members and for sure, their passion is paying off,” explained Momanyi.

Nyameru Sub County secondary school principal Mr. Aron Onchongá told KNA that he is barely two years old in the school as the principal but is very passionate about extra-curricular activities.

He promised to do all it takes to support students who have passion and talent in extra-curricular activities because it was one way of enabling them discover their strengths, specialize in and tap from them to develop a lifetime career which would earn them a living and change their lives and those of their dependents.

“The beauty of science and engineering exhibitions is that they are academic and spur innovative talents of young minds to plausible high levels so long they are supported rightly. My students were exhibiting seven items of science and technology but six were unable to proceed after vetting and dropped at various levels of competition apart from the robotics operation competition,” confirmed principal Onchongá.

“The robotics club led by Keng’ara made very fascinating innovations when I reported to this school after Covid which we made use of in school, the reason why future serious engineers from this school must be supported. They invented an automated sanitizer dispenser and placed it at the assembly point for everyone to use.  They further innovated an automated clocking-in system for teachers to the school which could recognize teachers and the exact time they reported into the school compound immediately they passed by a sensor placed at the gate. They therefore have huge potential in the innovation world worth exploring,” expounded Onchongá.

He however pointed out that the budgets involved in preparations for the robotics where there are numerous write-ups, demonstration boards, explanation charts and logistics expenses for the patron and the students are very high.

“We were forced to cut expenses from other school expenditures to ensure that our students participate in the national competitions which are one of their kind,” he said.

“The robotics team arranged robotic blocks and formed a truck shaped model robot, programmed it to take five missions to five places which included the hospital, school, police station, market and residential area and comes back to the starting station courtesy of the automated programme. The missions are sensed by the carrier truck robot by their distinct colours which has been programmed to take the missions to specific destinations all by itself. An innovation that qualified them to participate at the national science and engineering secondary school exhibitions at Kisumu Girls High school this week,” the patron explained.

Angela Betsaida, BSN, in her editorial feature article titled What Impactful Role Can Robots Play in Our Life? has defined robotics as a branch of science and technology that deals with the conception, design, construction, manufacture, and operation of robots that goes hand in hand with other fields such as computer science, mechatronics, electronics, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, and nanotechnology. These robot machines perform actions that are normally performed by humans, either through the remote control or automatically, she notes.

She further emphasizes that robotic application in everyday life is no longer futuristic; it is the truth of the present world since the robotic revolution is here to stay and will keep on growing with each passing day. Betsaidia notes that robotics has become very instrumental in the medical world as it assists doctors to perform complex surgical procedures perfectly and deliver medical commodities to clients in remote areas. It is also used in factories to undertake repetitive assignments accurately while in agriculture, it is used to apply fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigate large farms thus increasing farmer safety. In Artificial Intelligence, it is used by marine experts to measure water pollution and the extent of coral damage in the world’s vast and deep oceans amongst other tasks as designed and directed amongst other undertakings.

Patron Momanyi is encouraging Nyameru community right from home to embrace technology at whatever level because the world has become a global village courtesy of technology and dispel the fuss of saying technology has led to society decadence especially through exposure to social media platforms.

He is encouraging sensitization on the importance of exposing the society to correct and educative technology content to build future generations.

 By Deborah Bochere

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