First students complete Paramount/SAAF robotics training


The first group of students who enrolled with the SAAF Eagles Robotics Club have successfully completed the newly launched robotics training programme led by Paramount Labs in partnership with the South African Air Force (SAAF).

The SAAF Eagles Robotics Club offers teenagers an innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) development programme, the ultimate aim of which is to inspire youth to consider technology-based maths-related careers in fields like engineering and manufacturing, Paramount said.

The ‘Eagles Robotics Club’ programme in 2020 ran over five months, and took learners through training that included elementary robot programming, electronic circuit theory and practice, technical drawing and computer assisted design [CAD] software, and printing parts using additive manufacturing machinery in the form of 3D printers.

The first workshop-format training session for the SAAF Eagles included an interactive ‘Sumo Wrestling’ contest, where scholars engaged in remote controlled ‘robot combat’ using a joystick. The objective of the contest was to see which robot could push its opponent out of the arena first.

The SAAF Eagles Robotics Club participated in the first ParaBOTics Competition, whereby the robots were required to autonomously make their way through a desktop maze. First place went to 15-year old Obakeng Mathekga, second place went to Adam Price who is 14 years old, third place went to Kea Bapela who is 15 years old. The ParaBOTics Competition will be held in September every year from 2021 onwards, and will be open to all South African youth.

The Paramount Robotics Club is based within Paramount Labs, an innovation and research division within the Paramount Group, and aims to offer teaching resources and hardware platforms to assist communities across South Africa to create their own STEM programmes that will inspire local youth to study maths and science.

In addition to its role as a product research and innovation facility, Paramount Labs said it has unique robotics capabilities that place the company in a strong position to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, both in terms of cutting edge manufacturing developments as well as skills transfer within the group and the greater society in terms of its extensive corporate social outreach programmes.

“Through more partnerships like the SAAF Eagles Robotics Club, and by assisting and supporting local communities to create their own robotics clubs, the Paramount Group aims to create an awareness and greater preparedness among youth to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and set themselves up for a lifetime of success and prosperity in a high-tech career,” the company said in a statement.

The Paramount Robotics Club takes place at the company’s Midrand Campus and relies on experienced Labs trainers and volunteers from across the various group divisions to inspire and educate visiting youth. Several hardware platforms are available for visiting youth, including an open source desktop-scale robot and a quadcopter that can be programmed to perform autonomous missions. Complete supporting training materials and videos suitable for Grade 6 through Grade 12 and even undergraduate training are made available by the Paramount Robotics Club to learners and teachers who are curious and want to learn more.

During the COVID-19 lockdown some of the Eagles training sessions had to be presented remotely using Zoom, as infection rates soared across South Africa. “The education landscape here in South Africa and across the globe has changed fundamentally,” stated Paramount Labs special projects executive Reuben Ichikowitz. “Online education is the new normal, going forward we are going to use online tools like video training and Zoom calls to support young people who want to be prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Ichikowitz added: “With cutting edge manufacturing capabilities across land, sea and air systems, Paramount Group companies are at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Africa, developing and showcasing world class products and manufacturing solutions. Our factories embrace the use leading edge digital design, rapid digital prototyping, laser additive and 3D printing technologies. This enables us to compete with the best innovators in the world.”