Abu Dhabi, UAE: School pupils at the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia Private School had a pleasant surprise recently, thanks to a boy at another school in the capital.
Pupils at the non-profit Bangladeshi school were all smiles as they opened boxes containing Lego Mindstorms models and a laptop programmed to work with the kits.
Jaafer Saadat, 15, a Grade 10 pupil at American Community School, raised about Dh7,000 from his friends and family to buy the electronics on behalf of Robocorps, the club he founded last year to help fund such initiatives for low-income schools.
“My passion is robotics, and ACS is just one of those very special schools where they gave me the opportunity to participate in robotics, participate in World Robot Olympiad,” said Jaafer, an American.
“Now I decided I wanted to spread this excellent programme to other schools.”
He recruited classmate Sijal Jaradat and sister Noor Saadat to help carry out the Robocorps mission.
Pupils from ACS’s robotics programme have consistently been placed among the best teams at regional and national competitions.
Last year, one of the high school’s teams won first place and earned the chance to represent the UAE at an international robotics competition in Qatar.
To compete in the WRO, schools must supply their pupils with the Lego Mindstorms kits to build their robots. The latest model of this kit, the EV3, has a starting price of about Dh1,285.
“Because robotics is a very expensive programme, very few schools can afford it,” Jaafer said.
So when ACS decided to upgrade its Lego Mindstorm NXT kits to the EV3 model last year, Jaafer and his mother Adila Saadat suggested donating the 24 used kits to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia Private School and Islamia English School.
ACS enthusiastically supported the idea and went even further by building wooden tables and printing banners the pupils would need to enter robotics competitions, said Dr Victor Guthrie, the school’s director of technology.
“One of the core pillars of ACS is service, and service comes in many forms,” Dr Guthrie said. “It comes in the way that our students get involved, in the way our parents get involved, it’s an important construct of the American community.
“The richness of a programme is when it’s shared and other people get excited about it. That’s why this is so invaluable for us.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have had a robotics programme for a while, but the value is that now we can start reaching out to others through service to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
The Bangladeshi school did not have a robotics programme before it received the kits in September.
After countless hours of after-school teacher and pupil training from Jaafer and his mother, who is a trained robotics coach, the school sent two teams to the WRO. A team of girls even reached the semi-final stage.
“It was a huge milestone for us,” said Dr Anita Saul, who was in charge of the new robotics club at the Bangladeshi school.
With the new, advanced EV3 kits, and continuing after-school training by Ms Saadat and Jaafer, the Bangladeshi school will be able to send three more teams, who will be eligible to enter any category of next year’s competition.
Zarin Tasnim, 16, who competed in the WRO for the first time this year, said: “We can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for us, honestly.”
© The NationalDec 2016