Africa as a whole is considered to be seriously lagging behind in terms of tech innovation. The narrative is even worse for our nation which is riddled with so many socio-economic challenges. So for Zimbabwe to clinch the top spot in 2019 Pan-African Robotics Olympics championship is no small feat. This year the Robotics World Olympics were held in Ghana. The Zimbabwean team emerged victorious winning the gold medal with the USA trailing behind with silver in the category that Team Zimbabwe scored Gold. There were four categories overall with the others being clinched by Gambia, Senegal and hosts Ghana. Surely this is a remarkable achievement that deserves recognition and widespread coverage. These are the kind of news items that should go viral as they go a long way in boosting how our nation is perceived.

How The Olympics Were Conducted

This year’s theme was ‘The Making Of African Smart Cities’. The whole crux of the competition was that all participating teams would be given robot kits. They would then build robots from those kits which would have to be programmed. The programming was done using stipulated software to make the robot functional. The ultimate test was when the robot would have to execute and complete an assigned task. This robotics competition is principally Pan African but this time around the USA was invited to also participate as a special guest.

The 5th edition of the competition, held in Ghana, started from Dakar, Senegal in 2015. The participating countries included Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Djibouti, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Lesotho, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, United States of America (diaspora) and Zimbabwe. At the end of the four-day event on July 6 held under the theme, ‘Solving Challenges: The making of African Smart Cities’, Zimbabwe emerged winner in the Techs League, Gambia was first in the Stars League, Ghana was first in the Makers League and Senegal emerged winners for the Engineers league.

The Inspiration Behind The Initiative

The main thrust behind the holding of these competitions is to foster awareness and inspire young people to leverage science and tech to come up with cutting edge innovations. It’s no doubt that there’s a need for effective planning, management and the redefining of our African cities. One of the African countries championing the creation of smart cities is Rwanda and the trend seems to be slowly sweeping across the continent.

The Young Students Did Us Proud

The team that was representing Zimbabwe were students from Tynwald High School. The Zimbabwean team was overall comprised of 12 young students. The teams were structured into two categories namely, TECH and STARS. TECH was for those between 11 and 15 years of age whilst the STARS were those aged between 16 and 18 years. So it is our TECH team that earned superior points, got into the finals and ultimately clinched gold.

Africa Seems Poised For Great Things In Robotics And AI

Earlier last month there was a World Robofest Competiton held in Michigan in the USA. The event was held at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield Michigan. The crux of the competition was for the competing teams to use robotics in completing assigned tasks. The competition requirement was to construct a robot that would arrange boxes according to a given binary number. All participating robots would be initially impounded and then the binary number would be given.

The school that emerged triumphantly is a girl’s high school from Ghana called Methodist Girls High School (MEGHIS). The all-female team running under the name Acrobot comprised of 9 girls. It’s interesting to note that some of the countries that participated in the World Robofest Competition were South Africa, USA, China, Mexico, Korea and Japan. Prior to going to Michigan MEGHIS had surpassed all other participating native schools in Ghana at a competition organized by the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation. It’s quite refreshing to see the girl child being at the forefront and excelling in fields usually dominated by their male counterparts. There were also competitions at the same World Robofest event for junior categories (grades 5 to 8) where a boys team from Ghana (Team Cosmic) came 6th out of 52 participating teams.

The World Robofest Competitions is a platform that fosters a keen interest amongst students to build autonomous robots meant to accomplish structured tasks. The overall goal is to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and Computer Science. This competition is a bit different from the Robotics World Olympics in that any robotics kits and any software can be used by the participating teams.

Once again it’s resounding applause and a big congratulations to the Tynwald High School students for flying the Zimbabwean flag high. It would be quite progressive if such brilliant minds are nurtured and given the necessary support to advance further. Plus just like the Ghana example, it would also be a good initiative to have local robotics championships.