Solomon King Benge is a Ugandan determined to change things for the better for children in his homeland.
King Benge was recognised in 2014 as a Global Fellow by Echoing Green, an organisation based in New York City committed to global, sustainable innovation.
King Benge received the accolade in part because he recognises how technology can impact what is still largely an agrarian society. He’s always chasing a new idea, he explains: “[I am part of ] a team in northern Uganda building an automated farming programme. The project includes an irrigation system for crops and also a temperature monitoring solution to make sure… cow feed doesn’t overheat and go bad. We are also working on an automatic seed dispenser to feed pigs.”
This Ugandan entrepreneur’s main interest, however, is helping young children – Uganda has recently achieved an over 90% primary school enrolment rate – solve real-world issues using technology.
His company, Fundi Bots, establishes extracurricular robotics clubs in schools across the capital city of Kampala, and in the northern region of Gulu. Holiday camps extend creative learning and provide the time for children to build their own robots.
King Benge insists that students upcycle or recycle materials to prove the point that robots don’t have to cost a fortune. “One group of 13- and 14-year-olds is creating a small remote-controlled vehicle with a temperature reader on the front that could be used in fire-risk areas,” King Benge explains. “Their idea uses a wireless transmitter, which sends data back in real-time, but they managed to keep costs low by using locally sourced materials like wheels from toy cars.”
Those students who pursue careers in robotics will become part of a future market worth more than US$70 billion by 2020.
Fundi Bots is also working with children in Rwanda. “Our five-year mandate is to build a presence in five African countries by the end of 2020,” explains King Benge.
Other robotics associations are also flourishing in Africa. The African Robotics Network (AFRON) was established in Ghana in April 2012. AFRON organises the popular week- long Ashesi Robotics Experience for Ghanaian students, a group of whom developed the Lollybot – a basic ‘mini- explorer’ robot that can navigate obstacles and learn about its surroundings. The robot, which uses locally made lollipops in the design, can be built from scratch for a total cost of just US$8.96.
In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a group of young engineers have changed traffic patterns. The team designed and built a series of eight-foot- tall robotic traffic wardens that have successfully recorded and controlled traffic day and night for just less than a year.
Category: Summer 2015