SAAF, Paramount launch robotics programme for children


The South African Air Force (SAAF), Armscor and Paramount have teamed up to launch a robotics learning programme for children.

With learning proving to be a tall order during the lockdown period, it has become apparent that in order to save the 2020 academic year, new ways to stimulate knowledge had to be devised and keep learners going while awaiting the decision to return to the classroom, South African Soldier magazine said in its latest edition.

As a result, it was with that in mind that the SA Air Force Spouses Forum, led by Chairperson Africa Msimang, initiated the Military Family Foundation during the COVID-19 outbreak to assist children of military personnel to be active and not only depend on using virtual systems. The Military Family Foundation teamed up with Armscor and Paramount Group to launch the Parabotics Eagles Robotics Club which will encourage learners to take up science, technology, engineering and maths.

Msimang explained that the Club candidates, older children in the military community, would have an opportunity to be exposed to Fourth Industrial Revolution tools that can enable them to become anything they want to be.

“We are mindful that the majority of kids do not have resources and as such have reached out to industry partners in sourcing ways to assist the community. I was making a plea as members of a larger forum of the spouses to say our kids need help. It was incredibly exciting when Paramount Group came on board with the concept of robotics which is something very close to the Chief of the SA Air Force. He initially wanted to set up in all the bases. Armscor also came forth to assist with laptops that the kids will be using for their robotics coding and programming,” she said.

Reuben Ichikowitz from Paramount Labs, the R&D unit within the Paramount Group, said during the launch at the beginning of June that the Parabotics Eagles Robotics Club is a collaboration with the Military Family Foundation. He said the initiative is about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and is aimed at equipping learners with the tools, capabilities and skills to be able to embrace the fourth industrial revolution including, robotics, coding, laser cutting, rapid prototype etc. and bring science and engineering into their lives. This will give them skills that will form a foundation for their further studies, he said.

The team from Paramount Labs offers classes twice a week with children of military members who are in high school, SA Soldier reported. Learners are orientated and taught about robotics, coding and rapid prototyping during classes, amongst others.

Ichikowitz said that Paramount has been producing face shields it has prototyped, and have developed a multi-coloured children’s version. The company has donated one thousand face shields to the SA Air Force and 400 for early childhood development centres.

In September 2018 Paramount Group launched its Parabotics robotics competition, open to high school pupils, college students and university undergraduates from South Africa, with the aim of developing robotics and tertiary education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.