The first-ever South African Springbots team participated in the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Detroit, USA from 24 - 27 April 2019.
Despite being debutants, the Springbots - a team of eight young South Africans aged between 15 and 18 - put up a valiant performance that earned them the Rookie Inspiration Award, their second international award following their Rookie All Star Award won in Sydney, Australia in March this year. The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) sponsored the team.
FIRST Robotics World Championships is an annual robotics spectacle that attracts over 70,000 participants and fans from around the world - and around 1,300 robots - who come together to celebrate some of the wold's most inspiring young innovators and changemakers, and to marvel at their amazing robotic creations.
Participating teams face a number of challenges that test their robots' manoeuvrability, speed and dexterity, as well as the pilots' quick responses.
"We are honoured to have represented South Africa at the Championships and would like to thank Ford for truly giving us mobility by enabling us to travel to the US as the first team from South Africa to participate at the FIRST Robotics World Championships," says Springbots team manager Roxanne Reddy.
"The whole experience was a mixed bag of astatic triumphs and new learnings that can only prepare us for greater things in the future. Most importantly, though, is that we had fun and were able to fly the South African flag high and proud while doing so."
The Springbots run a mentorship programme called #STEMSquad, in which they have partnered with an underprivileged school. The response from the learners has been overwhelming and three are now part of the team, one joining Team South Africa on the Australia trip. STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, becomes much more tangible and interesting when building and programming a functioning robot.
For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. The vision was to not only promote STEM subjects but to bring together the youth of the world through robotics and encourage them to use collaboration and teamwork to find solutions to tomorrow's challenges today.