12 May Barbara and Mikhaeel – South Africans Empowering Their Community
When students Barbara and Mikhaeel returned to South Africa after their participation in the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge, they knew that their journey had only just begun. They saw that a lot of youth in South Africa didn’t have access to robotics, and wanted to extend STEM opportunities to more students in their country.
“FIRST Global made STEM accessible to me and showed me how I could use technology to change my community and change the face of my nation,” said Barbara.
Barbara and Mikhaeel quickly got busy with founding the SpringBots South Africa robotics club—the first in their high school. They initially received interest from over 200 applicants, some of whom became members of the 2018 Team South Africa, which placed 6th in Mexico City.The SpringBots held outreach programs at conferences, expositions, and local schools where they demonstrated their robot and discussed the impact of robotics. The team embarked on a mentorship program at a nearby school with no access to electricity or running water, and gave three students the opportunity to join them in a FIRST Robotics Competition Regional Event in Australia.
“We can’t wait for other people to come into our communities and make them better,” said Mikhaeel. “We need to empower and help our own people. We have to invest in ourselves.”
Robotics is not currently a part of the curriculum in South African schools. The SpringBots team has met with members of parliament and other leaders with the hope that their efforts will influence policy makers to incorporate robotics and STEM programs into schools, preparing South African youth for a future in technology.