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Facing The Future With Robotics Education

News Pic
Ahmad Nasruddin, the robotic teacher Foto Bernama
By Ali Imran Mohd Noordin

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- What lies for the future of a nation generally depends on its capability to keep up with technological advancements.

In countries like China and India, government efforts in offering robotics skills to the people is no secret. A lot has been put in to create a knowledgeable community.

The International Federation of Robotics stated in a report that by 2018, China will account for more than one-third of the industrial robots installed worldwide.

This is part of their large-scale effort to encourage automatic systems and reduce the use of manpower under the China Manufacturing 2015 labour movement.

In India, hundreds of robotics classes offer training to children and adults alike.

Companies such as SP Robotics Work, founder of the Kidobotikz programme, is an example of a company that has obtained national accreditation in the country.

The Kidobotikz programme offers training for children as young as 8 years of age, and it also organises robotic competitions to encourage the field to grow in India.

INCREASING AWARENESS

Realising this development, 33-year-old Ahmad Nasruddin Mansor, a teacher from the Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) in Kuching, begun focusing his efforts on encouraging the involvement of MRSM students in robotics.

Admitting that public awareness on the importance and future of robotics is still low, he felt it was time for parents to nudge their children towards this field.

He added that there was no age limit for involvement in robotics, no one is too old or too young for it. Knowledge in robotics can be adjusted to any level of thinking.

"This is a field that anyone can pursue. Firstly, the term robotics needs to be clarified because it's more than just electrical and electronics, it's wider than that.

"Anything that can be moved in the manner that we want, is considered robotics, even if it uses a pulley and other basic mechanism," he explained.

In 1979, the Robot Institute of America defined a robot as: "A reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of task."

HIGH-LEVEL THINKING

Knowledge on robotics originated from human needs to solve daily problems faced thousands of years ago, for example, invention of the water clock by the Egyptian civilisation 3000 BC.

To put it simply, robotics and invention are a result of human necessity and for the betterment of life.

According to Nasruddin, these were the skills needed by the world today. There was still much to solve to improve various aspects of life. For this reason, he believes that MRSM's decision to start the robotics programme since 2011 was timely.

"Individuals who master knowledge on robotic have high level thinking skills because no problem can be solved without understanding, analysing and evaluating options," he added.

He also has vast experience coaching the MRSM Kuching robotics team win at the Robotfair competition which gathers all MRSM robotics teams in Malaysia. The winner at this level will then represent Malaysia at the World Robot Olympiad (WRO) and International Robot Olympiad (IRO).

The MRSM Kota Kinabalu team selected to represent Malaysia this year has already made the country proud by winning the Gen II Soccer event at WRO in Doha, Qatar, from Nov 6 to 8, 2015.

STARTING YOUNG

On the right age to educate children on robotics, Nasruddin said learning can begin from the age of two or three, or even earlier, depending on the parents' creativity.

"Toys such as Lego help stimulate a child's interest in robotics. Start by building cubicles, followed by teachings on the principles of physics. Then move on to the principles of mechanics in a toy," he explained.

Taking a toy car as an example, children can be taught about a car, the way it moves, how its wheels function as well as the principle of pushing and pulling.

Interested parents can try to obtain information on robotics class initiatives organised by local institutions of higher learning such as Universiti Islam Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Perlis and Universiti Teknologi Mara, Nasruddin added.

BERNAMA