In a class of their own
Three Somersfield Academy students are proving you're never too young to make a difference in your community. Kairo Morton, Bobby Cooper and Enoch Richardson are teaching students at West Pembroke Primary School how to build and programme robots.
It's part of a 13-week programme called BermyBots.
Kairo, 12, came up with the idea and the trio put it into practice last month.
“In M3 we do a community project and for that we have to figure out what's a need in the community and then do a service to meet that need,” he said. “I'm very interested in robotics. I've been with the robotics team at my school for four years now along with Bobby.
“I noticed that a lot of public school students don't get access to robotics programmes or a lot of the same technologies we have at Somersfield.
“I decided to take my experience back to West Pembroke, where I attended up until P5, and got my friends — one who enjoys robotics and another who wanted to learn — to teach it and get on board.”
The boys teach weekly classes to 13 students between the ages of 9 and 11.
“We've been teaching them how to build and programme the robots themselves,” said 13-year-old Bobby.
“There is no remote control so you have to programme it on the computer and download certain features to the robot. They have sensors and can be programmed so they recognise colours, distance from objects or tell if something is bumping into it, so it's customisable.”
The boys started the classes by explaining why technology was so important in today's society.
Enoch was surprised by how attentive and curious the younger students were.
“As soon as we got there the kids wanted to know more about the robotics, so they all paid attention pretty well,” the 13-year-old said.
“Normally what happens is the P5 and P6 students are in the computer lab before we come. They are already there playing games and the second we start teaching they're interested enough to put their stuff away and listen to us.
“We're hoping the class will open up opportunities for Bermudians, and anyone in general, to learn about robotics and programming and technology in the future.
“Technology plays a huge part in the world. People are using robotics to build cars and computers and things we use every day now. It'll be nice for everyone to be involved and have access to it.”
Bobby, an aspiring architect, was introduced to robotics at the age of 9 by Somersfield teacher Mark Brown.
“I like science and technology and found robotics really interesting,” he said. “Me and Kairo do a more advanced version now, but the robots we teach the children on at West Pembroke are from the same company.”
Enoch is thinking of pursuing programming or animation when he's older; Kairo dreams of becoming a software developer and starting his own technology company.
When Kairo isn't in school, he spends most of his free time developing games and apps for phones.
“That's my passion. I like to code different things,” he said. “When I have free time I programme applications I think I could be using, like over the summer I created a talking calculator. It allows you to speak to it and it will do certain commands.”
BermyBots is about more than just a school project or getting a good grade for him.
“I wanted to do it for the sake of the children and their experience to broaden their horizons,” Kairo said. “I also wanted to bring the public and private schools to the same level. I wouldn't know about robotics had I not switched over to a private school. I wanted to expose public school kids to something they may not know about or have access to as a career.
“Even if they don't go into science, technology or engineering fields, robotics helps with their problem-solving skills and critical thinking and that can be used for any career they go into.”
Kairo said it was nice seeing faces he remembered from his time at the Pembroke school.
“It was just a good experience and felt good to give something positive back to them,” he added.
To get there, the boys had to figure out how to write sponsorship letters and e-mails so they could raise enough money to buy tools and software for the programme. Eleven sponsors, including lead sponsor Security Associates, provided $6,000 for the project. The boys hope to expand BermyBots into a camp that children from schools across the island can have access to.
• Learn more on Facebook, BermyBots Robotics Programme, or at www.bermybots.com, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org