A computer science graduate hopes to bring robots into every school by converting toy cars into robots that can be used to teach children science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts.
Onesmus Emeka, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Moi University and a Master’s degree in Computer and Information Sciences from Hosei University in Japan, learned how to build robots while working as an intern.
“I learned by observing and doing it while undertaking my postgraduate internship in a company manufacturing robotics chip-sets in Japan,” said Mr Emeka during an interview.
A chip-set is a collection of integrated circuits that are designed to function together as a unit.
With his knowledge in computers and robotics, Mr Emeka has partnered with two Japanese companies and is currently working on a pilot project to build virtual labs in public and private schools where children can learn programming and robotics at Sh100 per session.
The fee will give the students access to a robotics kit which retails at about Sh25,000 a set.
“Our goal is to reduce inequality in access to technology among primary schoolchildren. Technology should not be a preserve of rich families,” he said.
The 30-year-old social entrepreneur, working with partners, has started running a prototype virtual lab for robotics training at Rosslyn Riviera Mall in Nairobi. The team plans to escalate it after the pilot phase.
“We have been running the virtual labs and robotics pilot programme since February and we are witnessing a quick buy of the concept from prospective clients,” he said.
According to McKinsey Institute, the labour market is set for drastic changes as technological advances accelerate. This will create new jobs while killing others.
It is projected that work done by machines and algorithms will rise from 29 percent currently to over 50 percent by 2022, according to World Economic Forum’s (WEF) The Future of Jobs Report, 2018.
A host of other studies in the recent past have emphasised on the need to invest more in technological training to prepare children for the future of workplaces.
Consequently, specialists in new technologies such as robotics and computer programmers will be in high demand.
“I believe we are already on the right trajectory to achieve this, but we need to give children almost the same degree of attention when it comes to technology training just like the way we give attention to our employees in the job market,” said Mr Emeka, who runs Egalaxykenya Limited. Together with his partners, they have built robot kits that are entirely powered by dry cells, meaning that children in remote areas lacking electricity will be able to use them.
The robots have hybrid features that make it possible to use them as computers as well.
“This means one child may view it as a robot while another child will view it as a PC,” he explained.
Mr Emeka also said they are working to create a model that converts cyber cafés into virtual labs.
“My biggest motivation is seeing children having fun while learning and actually believing in themselves that they can be creators. And this I will achieve by offering lessons at a fraction of a cost,” he said.