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By leveraging technology and embracing robotics, South Africa has the potential to leapfrog Asia and other innovative countries of the world.

These are the words of Tyrone Bright, a mechatronics lecturer from the Durban University of Technology during the launch of one of the robotics laboratories at Mountview High School in KZN on Wednesday.

Tyrone Bright, Xoliswa Mahlangu and Maude Modise were some of the panellists who discussed the advantages of robotics and AI technology as the Shoprite Foundation unveiled two robotics labs at two KZN schools.

According to this report, the South African market exhibits a robust demand in sectors like automotive, healthcare, defence and logistics, underlining a trend towards improved efficiency and productivity.

Industrial robots, including articulated, elective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm, and collaborative robots are some of the sectors that are said to be gaining traction due to their deployment in manufacturing processes for tasks including assembly, painting, welding and material handling.

When it comes to the service industry, the report indicates that the services are in high demand in industries such as healthcare and hospitality.

It is with this in mind that this week’s launch which saw Mountview and Verulam High Schools in KwaZulu-Natal become the beneficiaries of R1,6 million worth of investment in robotics infrastructure, equipment, course work and teaching courtesy of a partnership with the Shoprite Foundation and other stakeholders.

According to the foundation, the initiative will boost and bring technological expertise to the schools’ Grade 8 and 9 learners, who will benefit through their future-fit educational journeys.

The foundation has indicated that this initiative is only just the beginning as there will be a massive roll-out of similar initiatives throughout the country in a bid to unlock educational opportunities and encourage entrepreneurship among young South Africans.

Speaking during the launch held at the Mountview Robotics Laboratory, the managing trustee of the Shoprite Foundation, Modise, revealed that the foundation has worked with a South African tech company called SIFISO Edtech to provide everything from infrastructure, robotics kits, teaching material and training.

Modise also indicated that the involvement of the two schools happened through a partnership with the Department of Education, which is currently piloting coding and robotics as a subject.

“The groundwork was in place and, importantly, there was interest and enthusiasm, so we saw an opportunity to help by providing training and equipment and adapting the existing computer rooms into fully functional robotics laboratories,” she said.

The foundation in its bid to deliver cutting edge technology to public schools and deliver state-of-the-art equipment was able to do this by commissioning SIFISO Edtech, to deliver a turnkey robotics hub, inclusive of robotics infrastructure, robotics kits, teaching material and training. Modise said the kits come with over 10 models each and include everything the learners and teachers need, from micro-controllers and actuators to gyroscopes.

The kits are modular and allow learners to create their own builds, allowing also both face-to-face and online training for teachers to create lesson plans, presentations and worksheets.

Over and above funding the laboratory set-up, kits and teaching aids, the foundation also donated laptop computers and tablets.

“AI is already part of our everyday lives. At the Shoprite Group, we’re using AI to get the freshest products on the shelves and reduce food waste. By investing in future-fit education, we aim to ensure that these learners leave school able to participate and contribute in a modern economy,” said Modise.

Pictured: Learners of Mountview High School eager to start their careers as robotics specialists after becoming one of two KZN schools to benefit from a fully-equipped robotics lab. Picture: Supplied

Siyabonga Sithole


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