School children devise space robots in national robotics competition on campus

Ten teams of elementary and middle school students competed in designing Lego-based robots in the finals of the 13th National Robotics Challenge, held on Birzeit University’s campus on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. 

Organized by the Faculty of Engineering and Technology together with the Ministry of Education, the Palestinian branch of the FIRST Lego League, and the Arab Robots Association, this competition witnessed  the robots completing a list of 15 tasks, mimicking what a space-based robot would be required to do, such as moving rocks or pulling space-station modules.

Each year, the FIRST Lego League requires students to build from Lego pieces autonomous robots that fulfill certain functions under a different theme, such as robotic assistant systems for disabled persons, robots that facilitate efficient transportation, or − for this year’s competition − robots that help humans in space. 

The winners of the national competition in Palestine will move on to the FIRST Lego League finals in the U.S. 

Welcoming the attending students, Wasel Ghanem, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology at Birzeit University, emphasized the importance of education that prepares students for the fourth industrial revolution that will be powered by advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence. Such an education, he stressed, must focus on critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and teamwork. 

Ghanem also gave a brief overview of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology − which made its facilities available for the students’ use − saying that it offers nine programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree and five programs that lead to a master’s degree. He highlighted the faculty’s focus on participatory learning, innovation, creative thinking, and interdisciplinarity. 

Hamid Abu Makho, director of the Cultural and Scientific Activity Department at the Ministry of Education, underscored the need for a new model of education that includes digitization, robotics, critical thinking, and problem-solving as main areas of focus. 

Muhannad Omariyeh, FIRST Lego League’s representative in Palestine, addressed the students and encouraged them to challenge the status quo through innovation, emphasizing their role in building a better future for Palestine and the world.