People 'n' Issues

Surprise SA medalist in World Robot Olympiad

September 23rd, 2016
Meridian Cosmo City (MCC), a school in a mixed housing suburb north of JHB, was the winner of a silver medal in the Senior High School open category at the World Robot Olympiad (WRO) national finals held in Pretoria this month.
robot

MCC is managed by JSE-listed independent education provider Curro Holdings, which saw sister school Curro Grantleigh take a gold medal in the Senior High School regular category. Grantleigh will be travelling to New Delhi, India, in November to compete in the WRO world finals, along with

The WRO is a non-profit organisation founded in 2004, comprising more than 50 member countries, and involving more than 20 000 teams competing in the challenges each year. The 2016 “Rap the Scrap” theme is focused on recycling, which calls for contestants to build robots that can reduce, manage, and recycle waste. Participants built their robots using Lego components.

The Natal-based Curro Grantleigh team comprises Bonga Gumbi and Dominique Spies, who had to make a robot that picks up sorted waste into recycling containers at a recycling plant. The robot had two minutes to complete the challenge and the team had to ensure the robot did not damage the recycling containers.

“I had a team that went to Qatar last year. This year I have a senior team qualifying for the world finals in Dehli,” said Alan Lewis, a robotics teacher at Curro Grantleigh.

Spies’ 15 year old grade 9 teammate, Gumbi, said one of the challenges they faced at the WRO was the surface of the mats on which the robot was operating – it was were different to the ones from school.

“We changed the program a bit and we succeeded,” said Gumbi.

Meridian Cosmo City participated for the first time in the WRO. The team, made up of grade 6 learners Tshimologo Mafokosho and Rethabile Moeketsi, built a robot called “Mrs Kling”, designed to clean littered caves. As some of the cave areas are too tight and inaccessible for humans, Mrs Kling has been built to collect litter and rubble in spaces that cannot accommodate humans.

“I am very happy with the achievement. This is just the best moment so far,” said Mafokosho, while Moeketsi insisted it wouldn’t end there: “Next year we will continue.”

The two also had the recent privilege of testing their robot at the Rising Star cave system where human ancestor Homo Naledi was discovered. Mafokosho and Moeketsi’s project was judged second to an electronic bin designed by Greenside Primary School. Greesnide also won the Junior Primary open category.

Parklands was the big winner, taking the gold medal in the Primary School regular category and the Senior High School open category. Redhill earned a silver medal in both the Junior High School and Senior High School regular categories.

Meridian Cosmo City Primary School operational head Swarts Sibanyoni said his school would have sent more than just one team to compete in the World Robot Olympiad if it had more robotics components.

Tony Williams, Curro’s project manager of IT and Robotics, said robotics had been taught as a subject from Grades R to 6 at Curro schools since 2011. It has led to annual Robotics Competitions which encourage Curro learners to explore the world of coding in a fun and rewarding way, and in a manner that provides an interactive learning platform and creates excitement in the classroom.

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