High interest in robotics in South Africa

There is a growing popularity in robotics in South Africa, especially amongst young people. This week it is inspiring to know that about 40 group of teams from the townships and private schools around Gauteng will be participating the AfrikaBOT robotics challenge at Zwartkops International Raceway near Centurion. This is one of the many robotics events taking place in the country every year. It is always great to see young people, especially those coming from previously disadvantaged backgrounds taking an interest in robotics and being educated in the field.

AfrikaBOT robotics challenge

AfrikaBOT is a robotics challenge hosted by the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) Technolab. High school teams and university students get to participate in this event on different categories by creating their own AfrikaBOT which must complete a certain challenge. This year’s challenge is to build an autonomous robot that will drive through a maze without wireless control to simulate self-driving cars. “The competition is an ideal opportunity for young people to get a taste for careers in advanced technology and engineering,” says AfrikaBOT organizer, Mr. Michael Ettershank, from UJ Technolab. For more information, you can visit their page here.

Robotics South Africa

Robotics is still a growing field in the tech scene of South Africa and is mostly dominated by hobbyists, students from universities and also high school learners. There aren’t a lot of professional jobs or companies available relating to robotics in South Africa compared to the developed countries like the USA or China, however, robotics education is still being taught and encouraged  at schools and also universities such UCT, UP, UJ, SUN and NMU where students can take a course in Mechatronics.

Children from the ages of 9 can start learning about robotics from organizations such as the FIRST LEGO LEAGUE where children can learn to build their own robots and compete with other teams from around the world. Engineering faculties around the country such as the University of Pretoria and University of Johannesburg also host robotics competitions to encourage students to participate in this emerging field. The University of Pretoria school of engineering hosts an annual Robot Car Race Day, where third-year electronic, electrical and computer students get to race autonomous line following robots that they designed using micro-controllers. The event is growing in popularity even amongst non-engineering students, which goes to prove that there is a growing interest in robotics South Africa.

Business and government are also taking cognisance of the growing interest in robotics, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies has highlighted previously the importance and opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution which also includes robotics “All of this is happening in the context of major technological changes like robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things and all kinds of digitised processes that are coming in. And they have, as I can see it, created an enormous potential for use of new devices and new technologies to solve a number of problems that have bedeviled development up to now”, said the minister.

Robotics will soon disrupt our lives and how we do business, if we want to compete in the world economy we need to invest in education, projects, and research relating to robotics