Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Thousands of pupils to take part in UAE robotics competition

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in classrooms across the Emirates

Abdullah Salem Almur, Marwan Saeed, Sultan Nasser and Hassa Surour, pupils at Rashid Bin Humaid school in Ajman and Altamyz school Al Ain, show off a hi-tech design. Pawan Singh/The National    
Abdullah Salem Almur, Marwan Saeed, Sultan Nasser and Hassa Surour, pupils at Rashid Bin Humaid school in Ajman and Altamyz school Al Ain, show off a hi-tech design. Pawan Singh/The National    

Thousands of pupils across the UAE are swapping textbooks for technology to take part in a schools competition to break down barriers to learning.

Young people will try their hand at everything from robot building and 3D printing to projects involving drones and web design at the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics event.

The annual contest has surged in popularity in recent years, from 35 pupils in 2015 to an estimated entry of as many as 5,000 in the next instalment, to be held from February 23 to 25 next year at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Teachers believe the rise of education technology can help inspire those pupils who are unenthused by traditional teaching methods.

Amna Al Shamsi, assistant undersecretary of the activities sector at the Ministry of Education, said applying elements of game playing to lesson time can be a useful tool to help pupils get the most out of science and other subjects.

“If pupils feel like there is a barrier between them and the subject then they will not have the passion to learn about it. But if you change the way it is presented, it will get them interested,” Ms Al Shamsi said.

Pupils said they would rather learn through creating projects than by burying their noses in books in a classroom.

Sultan Nasser, 12, an Emirati pupil at Rashid bin Humaid School in Ajman, was part of a team that built a robot for the competition last year.

“I loved building the robot because it reminded me of playing on my PlayStation,” he said. “I loved playing with it and my professor helped me programme it. My robot picks things up, drags them and can carry weights.”

Reema Humaid, 16, a pupil at Al Mawaheb School in Abu Dhabi, won awards for a dancing robot she helped to create.

“We wanted to do something fun ... so we made three robots that could perform with us,” Reema said.

The teenager said she is considering studying robotics after she finishes school.

Pupils Reema Humaid and Amani Mohamed, of Al Mawahed School in Abu Dhabi, were winners in this year's Artificial Intelligence and Robotics event. Pawan Singh / The National
Pupils Reema Humaid and Amani Mohamed, of Al Mawahed School in Abu Dhabi, were winners in this year's Artificial Intelligence and Robotics event. Pawan Singh / The National

“These competitions are ­getting more Emirati women interested in robotics,” she said. “When we compete, we noticed there were more Emirati ­women than men in the competitions.”

She said working in robotics had changed her way of thinking. “I used to think robotics was difficult and boring but when I tried it, it was really fun.”

Abdullah Jassim Alblooshi, 16, a pupil at Rashidiya Secondary School in Ajman, helped create robots that can play football, with one being a striker and the other a goalkeeper.

“We love football and it’s cool to make a robot that plays the game. I like robotics more than being in the class – this is more interesting than learning theory,” he said.

Safwa Khalid Marouf, a lab specialist and teacher at Dibba Fujairah School, said many of her pupils took up science and engineering after leaving school. She believes games and competitions play a crucial role.

Schools in UAE are increasingly adopting games and technology to enhance lesson plans.

Gamification and the Future of Education, a report by consultants Oxford Analytica, found that technology will play an important role in how curriculums are structured.

Gamification presents opportunities to improve the stock of technological skills of future generations of students,” the report said.

Updated: September 18, 2019 11:33 AM

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