A robotics team from the Ghana Secondary Technical School (GSTS) will be heading to the US to for the Robofest World Championships at the Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan from May 17 to May 19.
The team, Giantbot One, is the 2017 National Champion in the Autonomous Rescue Challenge (ARC) and qualified as one of three teams to represent Ghana at the event.
The team members will travel to New York from June 11 to June 18, 2018, to participate in the Genius Olympiad at the State University of New York at Oswego.
The members of the team are Kelvin Nketia-Achiampong, Anstein Anomel, Kelvin Oduro Aboagye, Kofi Erzah Buah, Sompa Abeiku Nyarko-Lartey.
The GiantBot team swept the gold, silver and bronze medals with unprecedented and national record-setting times of 25.25, 26.64 and 27.40secs respectively.
As an educational tool, robotics was introduced on a national scale in second-cycle institutions in Ghana in the year 2011 by Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu who currently works with the Mars Exploration Rover Operations Team at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States.
With other colleagues, the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation (GRAF) was formed to promote robotics study in Ghana.
The formation of the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation has stirred an interest in robotics in about 30 schools around the country.
Concerned by the poor performance of GSTS at the National RiSE Championship in 2015, Gt. Henry Kwaku Boafo, an alumnus of GSTS and an Architect/Research Fellow/Lecturer at the Centre for Settlements Studies and the Land Economy Department at KNUST decided to go back to see how he could help. Giant Boafo himself had established a private club in Kumasi, and his teams were National Champions in 2014 and 2015 in the Autonomous Rescue Challenge (ARC). After visits to the school in November of 2015, he began reviving and restructuring the GSTS Robotics Club.
In 2016, the GSTS team under Gt. Boafo’s tutelage won the gold and silver medals in the Autonomous Rescue Challenge (ARC) at the South Western Zonal competition and placed 2nd and 3rd at the national level by losing marginally to Gt. Kwaku Boafo's private team from Kumasi. In 2017, the GSTS Alumni Association (GAA) stepped in to offer some support. An emboldened GSTS presented three (3) teams at the Autonomous Rescue Challenge (ARC) South Western Zonal competition. The GiantBot teams as they are known swept the gold, silver and bronze medals with unprecedented and national record setting times of 25.25, 26.64 and 27.40secs respectively. According to Gt. Kwaku Boafo, “by its core founding mandate, GSTS is the natural place for Robotics in Ghana and with the right and balanced support in all aspects: spiritual/moral, social and financial, everything is achievable”.
There are over 100 students in the robotics club at GSTS. This high interest in robotics is probably due to the school’s roots as a science and technical school. The issue facing the club right now is a lack of equipment and training space for its large membership. Plans are currently on the table to build a new Robotics Lab at the school.
The Robotics Club is grateful for the GSTS Alumni Association (GAA) and its members worldwide. They also appreciate the efforts of individual Giants and the school administration who have thrown in their full support behind this extra-curricular activity. They want to especially thank their coaches, parents and past members for their enormous sacrifices and time.
In February, one of the GSTS teams - GIANTBOT ONE, the 2017 National Champions in the Autonomous Rescue Challenge (ARC) qualified as one of three (3) teams to represent Ghana at the 2018 WORLD ROBOFEST CHAMPIONSHIP to be held at Lawrence Technological University in Southfields, Michigan, USA.
Also, from June 11th to 18th 2018, six (6) students from the GSTS robotics club would be traveling to New York to participate in this year's GENIUS OLYMPIAD at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego.
GSTS has eager, hardworking and bright students who would do their best to make Ghana proud. The cost of travel is high which is why they are appealing to potential sponsors to help support them represent Ghana at the 2018 ROBOFEST WORLD COMPETITION IN MICHIGAN in a couple of weeks.
WHAT IS ROBOTICS?
Robotics can be defined as the study of robots. Robots are devices that have been conceived, designed, constructed, programmed and tested to do specific tasks autonomously. Robotics, is, therefore, the study of devices that have been conceived, designed, constructed, programmed and tested to carry out particular assignments autonomously.
ROBOTICS IN OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD
The world continues to be very sophisticated especially in the area of science and technology. Human kind continues to explore our world and universe by pushing limits which sometimes require precise, and often dangerous activities to overcome the challenges encountered in this quest for knowledge and adventure. Unfortunately, humans are limited in stamina, strength, cognition, and other factors that enhance efficiency. In addition, human life is also precious and therefore in some situations replacing humans with a non-human (robots) makes sense. These limitations and the value of human life has prompted an exponential use robotic technology. This technology is only at its beginnings and would continue to be of high utility in the coming years. Driven by information technology and artificial intelligence (AI), we are seeing robots being deployed in almost all sectors of our lives, specifically, in areas such as:
Security - Crime combat, military, and surveillance.
Disaster Management – Recovery, firefighting.
Medicine - precision-oriented specialties like surgery, pharmaceuticals
Enhancement of quality of life – like the use of drones for essential deliveries or air quality check.
Agriculture - Application of proper amounts of fertilizer on nutrient deficient land or in honey production.
Industrial activities – manufacturing, mining and oil exploration
Finance – stock trading, actuarial sciences etc.
Aviation and space research/exploration
In essence, robots allow us to go beyond our usual human capabilities. They add value and help improve efficiency beyond our human capacity.
IMPORTANCE OF ROBOTICS TO STUDENTS
Apart from the subject matter, the study of robotics can be highly beneficial to students. For example, it improves, facilitates and encourages:
STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
Critical-thinking and problem solving abilities
Time management skills
Pursuit of excellence
Practical, out-of-classroom approaches to learning
Reduction in truancy
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO STUDY ROBOTICS?
SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE
Robotics is a scientific discipline, so having a strong background in computers (hardware or software), mathematics, science and technical disciplines helps. While science and technical backgrounds are helpful, anyone can be part of robotics. Students who are not in any of the fields mentioned above can still be involved if they are ready to learn such things as programming, design and any relevant skills. In fact, since robots can touch every aspect of our lives, you need people from every field in robotics. For example, in designing a robot to interact with humans, you may need a biologist, or perhaps a psychologist to produce a practical robot. The essential attributes necessary to be successful in robotics, however, are mathematics, physics, computer programming (which could be graphics and script), chemistry, design, engineering/technical as well as patience, discipline and the ability to think logically.
APPLICATION OF KNOWLEDGE
Robotics is a technology or applied science. It involves the application of scientific theories, knowledge, and reasoning to make products or to solve various issues facing humanity. Robots fundamentally follow the instructions given to - (programmed) into them. For instance, if you want a robot to move from point A to B to pick up a load up. You need to determine for that robot, parameters like speed, and acceleration, etc. You may have to calculate distances, load (weights) and many other settings. You need to have a good understanding of various fields of physics such as electricity, magnetism, light, and mechanics (machines) to design and build a functional robot to suit that task. In robotics, therefore, students get the opportunity to test various hypotheses and utilize theories and knowledge to achieve their objectives. Our students are therefore expected to be knowledgeable. They learn by applying what has been taught in class to find solutions to specific challenges/problems. In a nutshell, what students do in robotics is to use theory learned in the classroom to solve problems.
Robotics competitions are team-oriented activities. To work as a team, and present well at local, national and international levels, communication is paramount. One's confidence is boosted if his/her ability to communicate with others is effective. Since English is the universal language used in Ghanaian schools, and basic language used at international competitions, we encourage our students to take the study of the English language very seriously.
TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Robotics can be time-consuming and sometimes even addictive, hence the teachers and coaches in charge of robotics work with our students to develop personal study habits so that other aspects of their academic life are not negatively affected. Students who are not disciplined could face challenges in other areas of their academic work. In the developed world, many schools now study robotics as academic subjects. Unfortunately, we do not do that here in Ghana, which is a grave worry and shame since robotics is going to be the future of technology worldwide.