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28 February 2024

Making a robot becomes child's play at workshop

By Staff Writer

Students from 22 high schools in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE learned first hand how to build their own robots at the two-day Botball workshop held at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar on Friday and Saturday.

Botball is a US-based organisation that introduces robotics to high school students. At the intensive two-day workshop, the teams were given the necessary background and expertise to design and program their own Lego Mindstorm robot.

"This is our third year in Botball, and it still feels exciting to come and participate," says Hani Hamade, a teacher from Al Mawakeb School in the UAE. "The competition is a unique experience because it teaches students to apply physics, math and communication skills towards building a final product – the robot. All of this is done in an environment where students are able to co-operate and share knowledge."

Over the next eight weeks, the students will work with their teachers and mentors to build and program their own robots. These robots will then compete against each other in a non-destructive competition on April 25 at Carnegie Mellon Qatar. At this competition, the robots must operate autonomously, meaning they move on their own without any remote control from the students. At the competition, teams must also demonstrate the work they have done to program their robot.

"A lot of students think robots and artificial intelligence are something that is very difficult and that they could never be part of," said Chuck Thorpe, dean of Carnegie Mellon Qatar and former head of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute.

"Botball not only shows students that robotics is something they can do – and do well – it also shows them how to work as a team, how to plan a project, how to use their math skills and how to have fun while you learn."

The three teams from Egypt that are participating in Botball will attend a two-day workshop in Cairo on March 6 and 7. This is the fifth year for Botball, and teams from Saudi Arabia have joined the competition for the first time.

The addition of Saudi Arabia brings the number of participating schools to 25 from five countries. The grand prize for the winning team of the April 25 competition will be a chance to travel to the US in July to attend the Global Conference on Educational Robotics.

Al Jazeera Children's Channel will be featuring more than 10 Botball episodes this year.

This is the third year Al Jazeera Children's Channel has partnered with Carnegie Mellon to cover the robotics event.

Botball reports on Al Jazeera Children's Channel will air internationally in April and May. Dates are not confirmed.