Robots Create Learning and Economic Opportunities for MENA

Mohamad Salhab, Mar 22 2016

On March 19, 2016,  teams of students between 7 and 22 years from 45 educational organizations participated in the third VEX Robotics Competition - Lebanon, held at the American University of Beirut.

The competition exists in 33 countries worldwide. It is further expanding in the MENA region with events being held in Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

More than just a battle of machines, VEX Robotics presents itself as a technology education opportunity for bright minds to optimize their knowledge in the fields of science.

Learning the Trade with Hands-On Experiences

During the opening ceremony, speakers focused on the importance of moving with the economies of the region from consumers of technology to producers.

“Given the distance that the MENA region has kept from the rest of the world in terms of technological advancement – it is our aim to bridge that gap through competitions. What is good about the world of robotics is that it compasses plenty of sciences and industries,” said VEX Lebanon CEO, Omar Hussein.

18 universities, 13 high schools, and 14 middle schools, in addition to a Beirut scout organization, supported teams of youngsters in building robots for the event - a process that can take up to six months in preparation.  

“Our main focus is not just on the knowledge that young people are gaining, but enhancement of their skills like teamwork, critical thinking, and project management,” said Hussein.

Hussein stressed that the Arab world’s schooling system consists mainly of theoretical knowledge that isnot applicable in the professional world.

“Around the globe today, robots are doing surgical operations. We want to reach such stages. We want to convey to our young participants that this is not just a competition – that there are real opportunities awaiting them, rewarding their hours of hard work,” said Hussein.  

Competition Winners Scoring Big  

The participants’ robots were both remote-controlled and programmable to operate autonomously. Competitions included shooting the biggest number of balls into a basket or a scoring range, as well as parking robots on a ramp.

By the end of a long day, teams that brought forth the most competent robots were rewarded, each in their respective categories: the New Century School and the David Karam Educational School came first among middle schools and high schools, respectively. On the university level, the Lebanese University - Tripoli Branch brought home the gold. These three teams will participate in the VEX Robotics World Championship 2016 that will be held in Kentucky, USA this April.

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