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YouthRobotics: To Infinity and Beyond!

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June 15th, 2020

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We’re pleased to announce the launch of our 5th Program Track at WeRobotics: YouthRobotics. When WeRobotics was founded five years ago, we began our journey with Flying Labs thanks to 4 key programs: AidRobotics, HealthRobotics, DevRobotics, and EcoRobotics. The purpose of these sector-based programs is to facilitate knowledge exchange, technology transfer, and new opportunities for local experts who specifically seek these resources, enabling them to take meaningful leadership roles in tackling humanitarian, health, development, and environmental challenges with the help of emerging technologies. 

The backdrop for the YouthRobotics Program is the urgent need for systems change. We want to shift power to local youth and transform attitudes in the process. The historically misguided conviction that “West is Best” has led to a dominance of foreign-led, top-down, and techno-centric projects across the Global South. As a result, most of these "Technology for Good" projects exclude local youth from meaningful leadership opportunities. And yet, local youth are best placed to transform the pervasive attitude that “West is Best” into one that recognizes and celebrates the "The Power of Local," their power. The context for the YouthRobotics Program is thus the urgent need for radical inclusion. The more inclusive and-thus-locally led “Technology for Good” projects are, the more sustainable and impactful they become. This demonstrated impact, led by local youth, can collectively transform attitudes, which is key to systems change. "The Power of Local" must displace the outdated notion that "West is Best."

While a good number of Flying Labs have already led youth/STEM projects in multiple countries over the past 3+ years, we are increasingly asked by virtually all 25+ Flying Labs to help them scale their efforts to reach more youth, particularly underserved youth in secondary cities, and to help them expand their positive social impact. This is an important reason why Amrita Lal joined WeRobotics earlier this year to spearhead the development of the YouthRobotics Program. 

The world is changing drastically, and with it, new skills and technology are needed to prepare the current generation for future challenges. For a sustainable future, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is the key to innovation and logical thinking as jobs will require these academic disciplines for problem-solving. However, there is a significant gender disparity when it comes to STEM fields. Historically, these academic fields have been male-dominated, and female participation limited for cultural, economic, and political reasons. While the trend is true in many parts of the world, many countries are slowly stepping out of this in creative ways. Another issue noted amongst youths is their perception of what STEM is. To many, professions like doctors, nurses, and pilots define STEM, and while this is true, it fails to shed light on occupations such as data scientists, GIS analysts, and so forth. 

These are the imbalances and perceptions we at WeRobotics for the past few years have been working to correct through our youth programs (YouthRobotics program), and today we would like to announce YouthRobotics as one of our core programs. 

We work closely with local experts in Flying Labs all over the globe by developing curricula based on their experiences and knowledge. These are both online and in-person to ensure that every facilitator benefits from the resources available.

Through training and programs with aerial, underwater, and terrestrial platforms, we have improved the outreach of youth engagement activities by localizing appropriate robotics solutions through the Flying Labs network. These programs introduce youths to coding, problem-solving, and creativity through logical thinking while refining presentation, team building, and public speaking skills. The aim here is to introduce youths to these platforms in a unique way at an early age to encourage them to take up courses and eventually careers in STEM fields. 

We work closely with local experts in Flying Labs all over the globe by developing curricula based on their experiences and knowledge. These are both online and in-person to ensure that every facilitator benefits from the resources available. Working with local expertise ensures that programs run efficiently and sustainably while overcoming obstacles set by language, geography, and culture. 

Some of the programs run by the various Flying Labs include Coding Against COVID19 by Papua New Guinea Flying Labs, Flight Training for Hearing Impaired Students by Zambia Flying Labs, Aerial Mapping for Disaster Risks Reduction by South Pacific Flying Labs, the Fly Like A Girl drone program by Jamaica Flying Labs and many more.

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