Kid inventors make robots
Eleven-year olds, Mark Andre Regolacion, Jamaica Mae Yong, and Marie Iroy are not your ordinary sixth graders.
At daytime, they attend classes, socialize with their classmates, and play, as any pupil of the Lapu-Lapu City Central Elementary School would do.
But just as the day ends, the three turn into young inventors with extraordinary skills.
Every afternoon from school, Mark, Jamaica, and Marie put aside their books to build a machine that could solve problems from as simple as placing a block on a box to the more complex maneuvering through an obstacle maze.
Young as they are, the three are able to program a robot, made out of Lego blocks, which can do various tasks and complete different missions.
“Sa ilang edad karon, kahibaw na sila mo-program og robot nga dili nato kaya sa una sa atong henerasyon. (At their age now , they already know how to program a robot which we could not do before during our generation),” said Vincent Anthony Rapas who coaches the three pupils.
Mark, Jamaica, and Marie undergo intense training every afternoon to prepare for the World Robotics Olympiad (WRO).
Last July, the team also flew to Manila to join students from all over the Philippines in a competition for a chance to become the country’s representative to WRO 2018 in Thailand.
The three failed to win the top spot but ranked 15 among more than 50 participating teams.
This assured them of a spot in the WRO 2018 Friendship Invitational Cup which was held last August 31 to September 1 at the Hoopsdome arena in Lapu-Lapu City, the team’s home turf.
Over 370 delegates from 14 countries came to Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, for the multicategory competition which included General Elementary, Junior High School and Senior High School.
Each category had to configure their robots to perform different tasks such as playing soccer, doing grocery shopping, and moving shipments which are all made of Lego blocks.
For Mark, Jamaica and Marie, their robot needed to successfully maneuver itself in a workfield that resembled a grocery to take particular colored blocks and match them to the same colored spaces.
According to Mylene Abiva, President and Chief Executive Officer of FELTA Multimedia Inc., WRO serves as an inspiration to students to be creative in solving problems.
FELTA is a major educational manufacturer and distributor that has partnered both with public and private schools in the country.
“The Philippines needs creators that will not only address the problem but also find solutions to the problem,” Abiva said.
Abiva hopes that the robotic industry will prosper in the Philippines even if Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots are projected to upend the future job market.
“It’s not leaving the humans jobless, it’s improving their way of life by shifting their skills to robotics,” said Abiva.
Abiva believes that what the Philippines needs most now are agribots to increase the country’s agricultural production.
Coach Rapas sees a bright future ahead in the robotics industry for his students where they could fulfill dreams of becoming inventors, engineers, and programmers.
“Layo gyod nig maabtan ning mga bat-ana (They will really go far),” said Rapas.
Rapas hopes that the local government would give more support for robotics in public schools by providing more robot kits.
“Usa ra ako robot kit nya medyo gubaon na mao nga manghuwam nalang mi sa ubang school. (I only have one robot kit which is a bit defective so we have to borrow from other schools),” Rapas said.
Additional robot kits, he said, would open opportunities for other students to learn the craft to ensure that in the future, there will be more
Filipino creators./Delta Dyrecka Letigio, USJ-R Journalism Intern
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