Teach not the science but provide a taste for it

We all find ourselves in a position where we believe our ideas can change the world. Whether it be the older generation, full of wisdom and experience or the younger generation with limitless creativity that’s unrestrained by the norm. Over countless of times, throughout decades of our history, we find that kids, aged no older than 18 that has invented or redesigned the things we know today.

In his teenage years, visually-impaired Louis Braille, improved on the slow reading process that the blind had at the time, and designed the braille system that the blind uses today and teenagers continue to improve on the Braille system – a 12-year-old by the name of Shubham Banerjee built an affordable Braille printer from a LEGO Mindstorms set. George Nissen, a teenage gymnast, alongside his coach invented a “bouncing rig” that could generate enough power and height to do a back somersault, made out of scrap steel and tire inner tubes – an invention that we refer to as a trampoline today. All children have greatness inside of them, they just need an opportunity or encouragement to embrace that creativity.    

Nxt gen is a project that aims to equip school children aged 10 – 17, with Fourth Industrial Revolution skills and futuristic skills to prepare them for the future of work. It will enable our kids to creatively interact, have fun while learning and introduce them to our play and learn approach, thus breaking the barriers of learning in a schooling environment and instilling hope for their future careers. 

There are currently 5 courses that are running, Animation, Artificial Intelligence, Coding, Basic Robotics and Robotics Advanced. Before each course begins, the kids embark on a series of activities that teach them empathy and teamwork to create oneness in each class and introduce them to two very important futuristic skills. 

students creating an animated video
  • A robot is a machine, programmed by a computer, that can carry out a complex series of tasks automatically – a robot only does what it is programmed to do. The little inventors were taught what it is, it’s benefits, the future of it and had to construct the balloon-powered car to display a way that robots learn (supervised learning). They had a car race to prove that a robot’s quality will depend on the programming you put into it. These inventors had to prototype a robotic toy designed for the future, out of recycled materials – this challenged them to think creatively on how to work with limited materials and how to brainstorm what the potential of robotics could be. The facilitators were astounded by the knowledge the little inventors had and the toys they came up with. 
  • Advanced Robotics was designed for the inventors that have already gone through basic robotics, this is where they had the opportunity to fully interact with building robots, they ventured into circuit building and with that knowledge had to construct a working traffic light and a robot that can draw – they were very interactive and the facilitators were surprised to find that they gravitated more towards the watch and learn approach – which just proves the many ways children can learn.
  • Artificial Intelligence is very similar to robotics however, it is ever-growing machine intelligence, where a machine is given a human quality – we are very quickly becoming dependent on it and in this course kids learned what it is, how it learns, the different types and the future of it. They were faced with day-to-day challenges that they have more than likely experienced – it was asked of them to empathise with the problem and brainstorm possible solutions that had to incorporate a particular type of Artificial Intelligence. One child, in particular, understand that Robots are not taking over, artificial intelligence is making our lives easier, to do and think of better things. Another child thought of making a nanny that would keep children entertained. This was one energetic group of kids who invented their way through challenges, and with that energy has kept the facilitators on their toes, keeping the kids hyped up, encouraged and full of creativity.
  • These technologies would not be able to exist without coding, as their build is a series of beautifully designed code languages that complement one another and work together to create something that makes our lives easier. With that being said, another group of inventors were introduced to two languages of code, HTML – a web page design language and CSS – a styling language and they had the opportunity to play around with these languages by coding a personalized video player. They were challenged with the problem of why the school dropout rate is so high and they had to empathize with the problem and report their findings on a video – the video that they recorded was the first video to be uploaded on to their video players. One of the students came into the class thinking that coding is boring and left mind-boggled at how awesome it could be and all the things we take for granted that started with code.
  • Animation, an art form that has inspired and encouraged imaginations and has played a fundamental role in our childhoods. We introduced them to what the “behind the scenes” are like in creating an Animated Video. They were presented with a worrying problem: Why kids drop out of school and they were challenged to find out why this is a problem and bring awareness to it in an animated video. They had to script and storyboard their findings. The kids felt happy, smarter and loved the way they could see the background of the series they watch daily. Imagine watching a video made by your child and being able to understand how and what your child sees.

We extend our gratitude to Shoprite for supplying 640 meals and Zlto for contributing 320 meals, because meeting a child’s nutritional needs leads to better working experiences. Without the monetary donation of RLabs Women, we would not have been able to implement our play and learn approach and have the students interact with the activities. The youth of the Grow Leadership Academy who volunteered by co-facilitating the youth of Nxt Gen – had an interesting platform which allowed them to feel comfortable with making mistakes and learning from it due to a helping hand always standing nearby. Please visit RLabs Radio to hear more about their personal experiences, as the inventors were provided with an opportunity to share what they learnt throughout the boot camp.

‘Never do for a child what he can do for himself. A “dependent” child is a demanding child. Children become irresponsible only when we fail to give them opportunities to take on responsibility.“ Children are our future leaders and we aim to encourage them to take on that responsibility.

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