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In Conversation with... Amrita Lal, Youth Coordinator & GIS Support

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June 9th, 2020

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WeRobotics is a diverse, global team. To spotlight their unique talents and contributions to WeRobotics and to Flying Labs, we asked them to share a bit about their backgrounds, their roles, and their interests.

Below is a conversation with Amrita Lal, Youth Coordinator & GIS Support.

Q: Please introduce yourself: who are you, where do you live, and what’s your role at WeRobotics?

A: Bula! My name is Amrita Lal, and I am from the beautiful islands of Fiji, located in the South Pacific. I usually live in a small town called Nausori, but I have been in the sunny Brisbane city of Australia for the past few months. I am the Youth Coordinator and GIS Support at WeRobotics. I assist in creating content that can be adapted by members of the Flying Labs network to encourage STEM fields for youths worldwide through the use of drone technology.

How did you get started in your field? What were your academic background and critical work experiences?

I was first introduced to drones in my Bachelor's years at the University of the South Pacific, where I obtained my degree majoring in Geospatial Science and Geography. At the time, I was unaware of its true potential until my team, and I used it to collect data for a final year project. I was excited by the technology, but the simplicity of data collection and processing was the most intriguing to me due to specific photogrammetry software. Before joining WeRobotics, I did an internship with UN Women, and I also worked at the University of the South Pacific as a Research Assistant for two years.

How did you get here? Why did you decide to join WeRobotics? What projects have you been working on?

In 2017, I came across an opportunity to work as the Regional Coordinator for one of the newest Flying Lab nodes in the South Pacific region, later known as the South Pacific Flying Labs. I joined the team enthusiastically even though I lacked hands-on experience with drones. Still, over two years and through numerous training opportunities, I was able to improve my skills, both in the field and indoors. This was possible through the talented team at WeRobotics and funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (DFAT). I joined WeRobotics because of their approach of empowering locals to lead projects in their own countries themselves.

I joined the team officially in March this year as the Youth Coordinator and have been involved in numerous projects. Due to COVID-19, I won't be able to conduct face to face training, so I have started working on creating online courses with various team members. These courses are focused on topics such as youth training, data interaction, and literacy, community engagement, and conservation.

What are you most looking forward to this year in your work?

Learning to use and understanding different mediums and platforms when it comes to encouraging youths to take up STEM fields when choosing their subjects in schools and eventually their careers. So far, I have only used drones to teach youths about logical thinking, problem-solving, and data collection. While drones and related coding apps have streamlined the learning process, there are other platforms out there that can be adapted to.

Amrita and a PowerRay Amrita holding a PowerRay underwater drone.

I am looking forward to integrating these platforms into the online courses and implementing them within the Flying Labs network and eventually to a broader audience. Based on the feedback that I will receive, I can then further modify the course. The idea is to ensure that conducting youth training and empowering young minds anywhere is a simplified, result-oriented task where youths benefit the most.

What do you like to do in your off time? How do you relax and unwind?

During better days, a long, long time ago (January 2020), if someone had asked me, "what do you do to unwind," I would have said Netflix and nap. Now both have lost their touch, so like anyone battling lockdowns and isolation, I too have picked up baking and cooking to fill the void. It turns out that I am good at making fudgy brownies, but my Indian dishes need a lot of work (takeaways and home delivery are a new evil). Apart from this, I enjoy spending time with my niece, who likes to watch Shrek on repeat and refresh my Python programming skills.

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