The Coordinator, Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Laboratory, Dr Chika Yinka-Banjo, University of Lagos, says a total of 226 pupils and undergraduates have so far been trained in the institution’s Summer Coding and Robotic Programme, since its inception in 2018.
Yinka-Banjo stated this in an interview at the Undergraduate Robotics Challenge powered by Coderina and the closing ceremony of the 2022 one-month summer coding and robotics programme at the weekend.
The essence of the Programme is to introduce young beginners to the field of robotics and are progressively led from basic concepts to actual work with robots.
The students learn the history of robots the work of early pioneers, the development of robots and the distinguishing features of robots among others.
She noted that this year’s Programme started on Aug. 8 ad closed on Aug. 26.
“So, in 2018, we started with 50 girls who were trained in Web Application Development and Android Application Development.
“In 2019, we had 42 junior and high school students, from various schools around the University of Lagos who were trained in coding and robotics. Unfortunately in 2020, the Programme did not hold, following the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but we had other online programs for our previous students.
“In 2021, 56 students were trained in coding and robotics and this year, we had 78 trained in Game programming and Scratch programming,” she stated.
According to her projects were usually carried out during this period when parents of the children are usually invited to come and see for themselves, what their children ad wards were capable of.
She noted that in the undergraduate category, two main projects were carried out by some students. According to her, they will be showcasing what they had done during the past three months at the laboratory.
They came out with a robot that could pick up trash and go and discard it. The other is an undergraduate attendance system, using fingerprints, to eliminate fraud and both are things that impact the university and country at large positively.
Yinka-Banjo added that at the primary school level, children between ages 8 to 16, drawn from schools around the university community were part of the Programme.
According to her slot, more parents are showing interest and are eager to register as many of their children as possible.
“This year, though we wanted less of the children, say about 60, parents kept coming to get their children enrolled. The undergraduate students have been at the laboratory for three to four months before this time.
“I must say we are making huge progress in all of this but one thing that is our major challenge is the issue of sponsorship. The way we are going now, we need a whole Artificial Intelligence building. You can see for yourself, however, crowded this place is. So, we need expansion so as to accommodate more children and other interested participants.
“We need support and assistance to move forward and to make the experience more exciting for these kids. Nigeria is a great country but needs support. We are trying to catch these children young and this is what we call from grassroots and from this grassroots, you are already making their vision wider.
On his part, the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe said that the intention was to bring only young female children from age 13 and below together and get them exposed to coding and robotic programming.
“However, this time around, it has been expanded to include some of the undergraduate students. In the same vein, people also called for the inclusion of the younger boys too. We also had to include them this time around, because we had funding from the Funmi Ayinke Foundation, and we were able to increase the number of participants.
“And like you already know, they are being exposed to the area of coding and robotic programming and this is the in thing now, which is the era of artificial intelligence.
“You can see what they have done, showing a robot that can be used in clearing wastes and the other, a device for attendance by way of thumb printing. That is for the undergraduate level
“The other level is for the children in primary school, schools around the university. It is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which we are encouraging now. So, this is very important and interesting. Some of them that went through this programme in the past, is now working with companies such as Microsoft and some others in other great companies as programmers.
“So, what we are saying is that these children are full of ideas and we need to harvest them, train and expose them,” the VC stated.