Uganda’s new inventors

Students fix their robotic vehicle during the robot challenge last weekend. Photo by Edgar R. Batte.

What you need to know:

Many times, statistics are quoted about Uganda’s dire condition as far as jobs are concerned. If the country encouraged its young creative people, this could be changed.

Innovation is steadily finding ground within secondary schools in Uganda and the national science and technology competitions over the weekend were full proof of this.

There is evidence that with a push or facilitation, a lot of ideas could see the light of day.

Students from a number of schools displayed novelty through a competition. Before their peers, they showed ways through which they would use robots to solve society problems.

Ms Betty Kyakuwa is the communication officer at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University, the organisers of the competition. She explains that the university is trying to empower young.

“It is part of our outreach program me as a university. We go out into the schools, we give them hardware and software and allow them to identify the things they think affect society and find a way of solving them,” she explains.

The shift away from mere learning and cramming is visible. The practical approach has been adopted full throttle not just by Kampala schools but schools from other districts.

The clear evidence lies in the winners of this year’s competition, Dr Obote College Boroboro, in Lira who beat Maryhill Girls High School, Lira Town College, King’s College Budo, Makerere College School, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Ntare School and Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga.

This was the third edition of the competition at which students demonstrated skills in making seed-dispensing robots, mechanised ballot boxes, robots with security features that can notify an owner if their car is being vandalised, robots that can clean water, automated seat belt reminders, robots with alerts to drivers if they are over-speeding among other smart ideas.

“The aim is to nurture science and innovation in secondary school we want students to join university when they know there main aim is to identify problems and solve them. We have had people criticising that we produce theoretical students,” Ms Kyakuwa states. She says that CEDAT buys hardware and software for schools that already have computers. The hardware goes for about Shs1m and she says some schools buy their own.

Dr Obote College, Boroboro presented a hybrid-marking machine. The students explained that if they had adequate facilitation, they could work on their innovation and start marking and levelling ground with their tool.

“We have come up with this innovation and we want to advance it to higher levels, our grounds most especially play grounds can be leveled well with our machine, we also want plantations fields to be marked such that our levels of Agriculture be uplifted in accordance to the vision 2040 as was stipulated by the president,” explained Daniel Obba a student of Dr Obote College Boroboro.

The Minister of Education Jessica Alupo commended all the students who had participated in the competition and promised them national support.

“I am very impressed by the projects showcased by the student teams. I commend the participating schools for the effort and I am sure that a few years from now the fruits of this event will show. I am looking forward to cutting-edge innovations which will be natured through this system,” said the education minister.

Sure future
Professor Sandy Stevens Tickodri, the principal investigator, Makerere University, promised to take on the most performing students from the science and technology competition as interns in their senior six vacation so that their skills can be boosted.

“We shall select some students from this team so that they work with the students of engineering technology in Makerere during their vacation. This will help them to work on the projects they had started on and our technology in the country will be up lifted as well,” explained professor Tickodri.

He also observed that what the young minds display is what the fourth students take on to work on as projects.

“I must hasten to admit that our continued interaction with the young minds has further hastened our resolution to work harder. Some of the ideas displayed at this level, rudimentary as they seem are the envy of some fourth year students, “said professor Tickodri.

The education Minister also encouraged teachers to involve students in practical lessons so that the theory they learn in class be put to practical use.

“I appeal to all the teachers to put whatever they teach theoretically into practical terms. This will help the students to relate what they learn into real life,” Hon Alupo said.