BMOBILE’S inaugural Innovation Week took technology beyond the business community by partnering with the Smart Kids Educational Club to host three Kids Can Code workshops for children from across the country.

During the first session, 16 eager youngsters built rovers to race and were exposed to lessons on how robots can be used to manoeuvre dangerous and difficult situations.

It is not often that children are exposed to the complex world of coding but facilitator Sara Bernard, founder and CEO of the Smart Kids Educational Club, navigated the budding technology entrepreneurs through some of the fundamentals of the industry. The club is the only After-School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) provider with five locations nationwide and has received the Trophy for Best Mechanical Design in the first LEGO League National Championship 2017-2018.

Bernard, a chemical engineer by profession, led the youngsters into a brand new world of robotics and showed them how they can use coding to improve life, solve problems and even provide entertainment.

The first part of the session taught the children a hands-on and simplistic approach to using code to create animation. The second half of the workshop concentrated on building robots and using coding to control the robotics. The children learned to build a rover; a remote-controlled vehicle for driving over rough terrain, and, at the end, they participated in an exciting, competitive and photo finish rover race.

Encouraged by the energy of the children at the session, Bernard said that “this is why we do things like this; to open up children to what can be achieved through STEM”. Bernard and her team run an educational camp and offer workshops to children ages two to 17 that focus on holistic development of technical skills, including coding, programming, robotics, application development and non-technical skills such as communications and learning how to invent.

Bernard said, “When I saw bmobile offer this opportunity to partner for Innovation Week, I had to jump on it. Entrepreneurs take big risks and it is really good to have support from an established brand like bmobile. They have really given us a platform to let the public know what we are up to.

We put our heart and soul into this and by them doing this, they have made an investment in us. It is them saying ‘we believe in you and we support what you do and the good work that you do’. We are really grateful to bmobile for that.”

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Thirteen-year-old Lily Kezia Clarke attended the workshop and said that her “favourite part was building and programming a robot”. Lily, who journeyed all the way from Point Fortin to the capital with her younger brother and parents, wanted to deliver a message to the organisers: “I want to encourage them to keep doing what they are doing with the STEM activities for the younger generation so that Trinidad and Tobago can be a better place technology-wise.”

One of the club’s directors and teacher, Bill Henry, indicated that “when the children are introduced to more advanced coding, their learning curve [is] significantly improved”. He stressed on the importance of the session to promote early development in children by combining innovation and education so that they would not be “just consumers of technology but also creators”.

The Kids Can Code workshop was designed to encourage technology in early learning and foster innovation in children, who may discover some hidden and latent talents that will encourage them to solve problems using technology. The session was one of the many that fell under the umbrella of the bmobile Innovation week which concluded recently.

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