True Patriotism: 1,200 Robots Donated to Schools, Workshops in Rural Areas too

Total Croatia News

A private entrepreneur is attempting to fix what the state education system is severely lacking

“Just because they weren’t born in the capital, but a small place in Croatia, children should not be deprived of the opportunity to learn new skills and acquire knowledge of the 21st century,” the Croatian Makers messaged. Unlike most Croatian politicians they did not stop at statements but went into action and during this summer will, for school children in small towns, organise free robotics workshops, reported on July 10, 2016.

“We’re bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics) into rural areas. Besides it being an area with the best jobs in developed countries, STEM competencies are found in almost all other sectors. For example, how can one be a relevant economist, psychologist, even journalist, without the knowledge of gathering, processing, visualisation of data. Unfortunately, STEM education is particularly underrepresented in our school system, which is quite bad as it entices an open spirit, learning new skills and attitudes far more important than memorising data, something still practiced in our educational system,” says investor and entrepreneur Nenad Bakić who founded the Institute for Development and Youth Innovation – IRIM.

Robotics is, Bakić said, the best gateway to STEM, for many reasons. Firstly, it includes programming, a logical way of thinking. Secondly, kids build the robot with their hands and grow with it more than with abstract programming. Thirdly, robots have sensors so we arrive at multidisciplinarity and fourthly, robots are programmed by trial and error, which develops an open spirit and removes the fear of mistakes and retrials.

What is most important is that the child learns through playing. CM in motion is meant primarily for small towns, even villages whose institutions did not participate in the CM league which so far has enveloped 220 schools, 3,600 students and 1,200 robots. The goal of the League is to enable widespread contact with robotics, automatics and programming in primary education. Teachers – gather the kids and sign them up for free robotics workshops!

If you are a teacher in a smaller town, without a CM league, if you gather children and organise a space, we will come and organise a free introductory workshop in robotics! So far we have two dozen interested, coming from all of Croatia. The idea is to be present in a certain zone for a period of time, mostly looking into Slavonia at the moment, and organise workshops ad hoc, together with the local community. The project definitely starts July 15 until mid-August, but if successful, we will enlarge it to two cars and extend until September. Our wish is to remove the fear of robotics and automatics in small places as well and induce teachers and students to join the Croatian Makers league,” Bakić said.

Although the Croatian Makers initiative is praiseworthy, as usual they are faced with negative reactions and even accused that by massive introduction of robotics in Croatian schools they are preparing children for “capitalist manipulation.”

“We began two years ago with donations of equipment for robotics and automatics to schools and other institutions. The idea started from the insight that the technological gap is easy to bridge today, both on the user level – in Croatia we too have the latest smartphone models and drones just like Bill Gates – and on the technological level. As the ‘makers’ movement is widespread in the Western world lately, a do-it-yourself of the new age and as technology has become affordable, meaning primarily the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms, we realised that by donating such equipment to our backward education system, we can help many kids join modern times,” says the renown entrepreneur.

He pointed out how in the first phase they donated equipment to around 60 schools and institutions, attempted to motivate high-schoolers who are closer to the labour market and innovation, startups, while also donating drones to the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. For two-thirds of teachers-mentors this was their first encounter with robotics.

“This year we focused on primary schools, starting the Croatian Makers league. It really is a massive project, I would say a movement. As part of it we donated 1,200 robots to 220 schools and organised a league. The point of the League is continuance and locality, to make it as close to the regular education process. Of course, the distribution of knowledge matters and curriculum, so we produces lots of educational materials, held educational workshops for teachers etc. Around 4,000 kids were involved in education around the League, with 1,150 joining the first round in 19 centres around the country. It’s interesting that for two-thirds of teachers-mentors this was the first encounter with robotics,” said Bakić pointing out how feedback from students, professors and parents are fantastic.

“We are so pleased with the achieved success that in the fall we are restarting the League with even more schools. We are privately funded, mostly with our family money, in small part through donations of companies and individuals, whom we thank very much, and are set to receive funds from Croatian Telecommunications as part of the We Are Stronger Together project. With that money we will include a certain number of schools through internet education and increase Logo programming,” Bakić detailed, saying how robotics and automatics and main platforms for education of youth and catching up to modernity.


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