ROBBO Classified: Nigeria
ROBBO has opened two ROBBO Classes in Nigeria and is promising to extend next year. Serge Balbutski, Head of Overseas Development in ROBBO, shares his experience of penetrating Nigerian institutions and bringing robotics education there.
What has happened
The two ROBBO signature robotics classes have been launched in Nigeria (we call them ‘ROBBO Class’).
One is based on NIIT, Port Harcourt. It is a leading skills and talent development corporation, having a footprint across 40 nations. Having a ROBBO Class, NIIT is going to offer robotics courses for their students. Furthermore, the ROBBO laboratory established within NIIT, shall become a base for practical sessions of other major universities in Port Harcourt. The University of Port Harcourt and Ignatius Ajuru University of Education have already signed agreements with NIIT on using the lab for their practical classes.
Another ROBBO Class arrives at the Highlander Open School, Lagos, a leading institution, distinguished by excellence in developing future leaders. It is going to provide robotics education for children 5-14 years old.
Both Highlander Open School and NIIT students are going to learn coding, the Internet of Things, mobile robotics, circuit design, microelectronics and 3D technologies, each at varying levels of difficulty. The classes are about to begin in September. Currently, we are training teachers for both institutions.
How it started
Andy Ndukwe is the director of Guzye Investments Ltd, a company that brings students from Nigeria to various universities around the globe. Back in 2021, he visited several ROBBO Classes and became interested in ROBBO educational approach. After attending the award ceremony of the international Scratch Olympiad, we altogether started to find out if there were any school children engaged in Scratch programming in Nigeria.
The Scratch Olympiad 2022 we brought to Nigeria, encountered about 20 participants from this country only. However, the fact that there were volunteers to take part in this coding contest inspired us to make further efforts and approach Nigerian institutions on implementing ROBBO educational technologies there.
Our first visit to Nigeria with a series of presentations and master-classes took place in January, 2023. We were really impressed with how the children were interested in robotics and overwhelmed with their questions.
From interest to actions
After several months of negotiations, we finally came up to the agreements and the second trip to Nigeria happened in July, 2023. We held four master-classes, a number of negotiations, and spoke on the radio then.
The goal of the master classes was to demonstrate that operating the ROBBO equipment is not as difficult as it may seem: even within a 1,5 hour session we managed to implement a small project and make sure that technology is not magic. Another purpose was about selecting the teachers who would provide the education to their students after passing the ROBBO training courses. Finally, the master-classes sparked interest among students who would work in the ROBBO laboratory. We formed the first groups that would begin training in the ROBBO class in September.
As opening the ROBBO Class at NIIT was widely discussed and representatives of the largest universities and various officials were engaged in the event, I was invited to Radio Today in Port Harcourt. It was a morning show that discussed the prospects for the development of robotics in Nigeria, the school’s work, and everything related to this matter.
How Nigeria perceive ROBBO
The students were impressed how simple the equipment is, they were fond of the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in practice, and see instant results.
We should note that many of the participants had heard quite a few about robotics before the master-classes, and it had been seen as something very complex and inaccessible in their minds. But in just an hour and a half, everything started moving, printing, and executing operator commands: the students managed to make their first projects with the ROBBO Lab and ROBBO Platform, create a 3D model and print it.
At the same time, the students understood how in-depth and thorough the ROBBO education would be. And what consistent and comprehensive knowledge of robotics, coding, circuitry and 3D design they would get. Indeed, it was crucial to make the first step and ignite the interest in their eyes from the very beginning.
We are counting to launch another ROBBO Class in Abuja shortly and have serious expectations to further ROBBO expansion in Nigeria.
During the last visit, we made a presentation at the Niger Delta Development Commission; a Nigerian government agency responsible for training youths from the oil rich region of the country. They were impressed with ROBBO educational performance and expressed willingness to partner with us.
NIIT, being our partners, are a truly cohesive and friendly team that knows how to work with ROBBO equipment and presentations. They are already conducting confident negotiations and presentations without ROBBO HQ’s participation. Hopefully, they will be able to promote ROBBO in Rivers State, Nigeria.
Also, NIIT has technical specialists skilled in soldering and repairing phones and computer boards. We believe they will also manage with repairing ROBBO equipment and NIIT has agreed to take on this responsibility. It should not be a big deal as the ROBBO equipment’s design is robust and reliable, and the ROBBO Technical Department is always here to give support. However, having a local technical base is very important for the sustainable development of ROBBO in the country.
The teacher-related aspect is also inspiring. Many Nigerian IT teachers study Python, Scratch, and Java independently, so they have the basic literacy level to take up the ROBBO program. During the master-classes we made, they could understand all the information and repeat the lesson on their own easily.
Maria Hakkarainen, on the Nigerian case:
Digitalization is still in its initial stage in Nigeria. Its residents are gradually learning programming languages such as Python, Java, and others that are popular worldwide. Robotics in local organizations is currently being applied on a small scale. However, there are many who fully recognize the need for its implementation. Local educational organizations constantly approach us with questions regarding the cost and operation of our equipment. Therefore, we hope that by the end of next year, at least 20 ROBBO Classes will be opened in Nigeria.