Robotics in Nigeria: My “Eye Opening” Trip to the World Robotics Olympiad (WRO) Finals in Nigeria

I had the opportunity of accompanying the Team from iLab ROC for their Contest in the National World Robotics Olympiad (WRO) Finals 2015 in Nigeria.

My experience on this trip was an eye opening one. A lot of students came from all over Nigeria to participate in this Competition, students ranging from Primary school level up to College level all came to participate.

I’ll be running through the major categories and some of their participants projects respectively.

There were two categories:
1. The Open Category: In this category, contestants are to come with their own Robotics project. Judges would judge based on how useful the Robotics project is to humanity (and some other parameters). And this is open to all age categories.
A lot of groups entered for this category, but I’ll be talking about a few that caught my eyes.

  • An assembly plant. Mini assembly plant that was built with Lego Robotics.
  • A six legged robot that can navigate through obstacles.
  • I really don’t know what this is called, but it seems to be some sort of excavation bot with some killer blades.
Emphasis on the killer blades :D
  • A robot that can be used to explore a volcano. The robot can be used to collect soil samples and it is also equipped with an android phone that is used to transmit live video feed.

2. Junior Category: This category involves building robots that would accomplish certain tasks. This tasks ranged from tracing lines to packing and moving coloured cubes.
Here are some pictures of some of the arenas (in increasing order of difficulty) where the robots were to solve certain tasks.

I’ll love to comment especially on the last arena shown above, it was called “Mountaineering”. The students had to build a robot that would pick up a coloured cube and place it in the hole on their respective coloured “mountains”. What was more interesting was the complexity of robots that this students were able to come up with. Here is a link to a video of one of the schools testing out to see if their robot can perform this task:

My Reflection on the Event

I feel that there is still a lot of work to be done on our Nigerian Students as it is arguable that most of the constructs at the competition were copied online. But I feel this challenge can be overcome if students were actually given proper knowledge on how to research, tweak and experiment with their robots and not rely on the fact that there is an expert somewhere that already knows how to get the job done.

This is my first time of attending a Robotics competition, most especially one for High School Students and I must say that I’m impressed by what Nigeria students have been able to pull off.

About 130 schools were in attendance for the competition and this number shows that robotics is quite accepted in a lot of school in Nigeria. I’m happy that it is catching on, as it was almost unheard of when I was in high school. Though more work needs to be done in getting it across to public secondary schools as they were extremely minimal in attendance.

One issue that public secondary schools have is funding and some organization are pushing to help to bridge that gap. One of such organizations is ACI.

I believe if we keep investing so much in high school kids, then the sky is the starting point for us as a nation. #clicheEnding

The iLab ROC Team from OAU