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Reddam House ignites passion for tech with robotics contest

Lungile Msomi
By Lungile Msomi, ITWeb journalist
Johannesburg, 14 Sept 2023
Winners of the Reddam House Bedfordview inter-house robotics competition.
Winners of the Reddam House Bedfordview inter-house robotics competition.

Reddam House in Bedfordview yesterday hosted its annual inter-house robotics competition in Johannesburg.

The event provided a platform for young minds to showcase their inventiveness, teamwork and technical prowess.

Teams of learners aged nine to 12 were tasked with completing various challenges, including coding instructions into their robots − such as spinning, making sounds and driving over a ramp − and naming the programs they used.

The learners used the Lego Mindstorms Education platform and EV3 robots made entirely out of Legos to complete their tasks and earn points.

The duo of Jessica Howsen and Zemirah Govender from the Philippians team took first place, beating the Red Romans house, which had teams in second and third place.

Reddam House teacher Brenda Kahl says she is excited to introduce her learners to robotics because it helps them develop computational thinking. It is good learning experience for students, as it helps the aspiring scientists see that robotics and coding are not hard, she notes.

“The learners learn processing; they learn about repeating loops and seeing patterns, so that's great. They also get a sense of achievement when they’ve actually managed to get something going, as well as learn perseverance. With coding, you need to try again and try again, and problem solve or debug and try again and try again − so that's a very good skill for them too.”

The inter-house robotics competition is not the first time Kahl has exposed her learners to robotics and coding. Earlier this year, Kahl and her learners participated in the Inspired Builds Global Robotics Competition.

It provides a platform for students from around the world todemonstratetheir ideas for robots that address important environmental issues, such as reducing waste, improving energy-efficiency and conserving resources.

The learners from Reddam House placed third in the eight to nine age category, with an ocean waste collector robot designed by Songman Yin and Christian Tallarico using EV3 Lego bricks. The duo said they came up with their “Waste Monster” robot by looking at the amount of waste that gathers in the ocean.

The team installed a motherboard on the robot that controls everything, so no human input is needed to control the machine. The robot has a gate that opens to collect water and waste. The water is run through a filter that releases clean water back into the sea, while the robot moves back onto shore to dump the waste it collected.

Kian Bageloo and Michael Cole, also from Reddam House, built a robotic crane designed to pick up metal waste using an attached magnet.

Named after South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane robot has touch sensors that trigger movement. Although it is designed to pick up waste, the team believes its technology can be applied to warehouses and construction sites where heavy metals need to be moved.