From catching crooks to cooking, teens think outside the bots

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From catching crooks to cooking, teens think outside the bots

Creative Diepsloot youngsters build robot prototypes to tackle pressing problems in their area

Journalist


In Silicon Valley their robots fight crime. In Diepsloot the robots sense crime, clean, cook and even help children with homework.
The difference is that the robots in Diepsloot are prototypes.
Grade 9 pupils from Diepsloot Combined School have used artificial intelligence to solve some of the problems facing their community. Over 15 weeks the teens took part in the AI & Robotics for the Future programme.
Imagine a robot that senses crime and sends an alert to police officers, or one that cleans rubbish, or another that purifies water. The Diepsloot youngsters imagined them and built prototypes.
Introducing Andy. She cooks, cleans, does laundry and helps with homework. Getting Andy to complete tasks is as simple as sending her a text message.
Other prototypes the group developed include a water-purifying robot, a crime-fighting robot, a robot to clean the streets and sort recyclables, a solar-powered generator to power homes and appliances, a cellphone-controlled housekeeping robot that can even help kids with their reading homework, and a solar-powered cooking pot.
Daisy Chauke, Celebrity Maluleke and Maropeng Matlakala were part of the “Born to Lead” team who created the water-purifying robot. They saw there was a severe shortage of clean water in their area.
“In our community we don’t have clean water. We have to walk almost two hours to get water. So this robot will really help with that,” Maluleke said
The robot is also fitted with a sophisticated anti-theft system that enables only the owner of the portable device to use it. If the device is stolen and someone else tries to use it, it sets off an alarm.
It can purify up to two litres and will cost only R150.
Chauke said that not only would this save people time but there was also a safety benefit because the trip to fetch clean water was often a dangerous one.
“It’s not unusual for us to be without water and electricity for three days ... this is a big issue in our community. But I’ve learnt that there are solutions to every problem, and this one is also affordable,” Chauke said.
Another prototype created by the group Amazing Legends could cause a stir at the Diepsloot police station. They built a mini “crime-sensing robot” to help police officers and residents.
The crime in their area led the teens to come up with a solution to prevent crime. After realising the police officers don’t have enough time or resources to clamp down on criminals, the group decided to help.
According to the group they fitted the robot with an alarm loud enough to alert the officers – “even on a lunch break” – that a crime was in progress.
Moving away from robots, Shudu Mannzhi and her team developed a solar-powered cooking pot. This idea stems from the constant electricity shortages in the area and the danger of cooking on paraffin stoves.
“There are a lot of electricity blackouts in Diepsloot, so we created this solar-powered pot to help with this. The stoves we use now are dangerous and release carbon dioxide, which is also dangerous for children. This pot is safe and affordable,” Mannzhi said.
The pot can make pap, boil an egg and even grill meat. When the meal is cooked an alert is sent to the user’s phone.
For those who can’t afford Andy the housekeeping robot, the solar-powered pot will be one less item to wash since it only needs to be wiped clean.
This initiative is a first in the country by educational specialist I-Innovate, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning programme that aims to open up opportunities in under-served school communities for pupils to develop the talents and skills that are critical in this digital age. I-Innovate CEO Trisha Crookes said each team could now take their projects and potentially turn their prototypes into robots or workable machines.
“Children are naturally innovative. Watching creativity spark in each pupil as they explore new concepts and apply them to real-life problems with such confidence, is a true privilege. This kind of innovative thinking is our future and I can’t wait to see these pupils change the world.”

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