“Jóvenes Inventores”, an educational programme was developed 3 years ago by Uruguayan enterprise UYRobot, to provide tools and training in robotics and advanced programming to teachers. UPM Foundation has been promoting the programme since 2019 with the hope of expanding its reach throughout Uruguay’s interior.
This is important considering that much of development activity in Uruguay is centred around its capital, Montevideo. Programmes like ‘Jóvenes Inventores’ are a way to ensure that educational opportunities are provided to regions outside the capital’s orbit.
“Most of the tools and projects for teaching are located in Montevideo or in each department’s capital city,” explains María José Cuevas, Fundación UPM coordinator.
Robotics as a shared tool for teachers
The aim of these workshops is to provide an introduction to both autonomous and industrial robotics. As such, the project consists of two components: the first is a teacher training, which is made up of 16 hours distributed over four days. More than 50 teachers from ten educational institutions from different regions of the interior, including Paysandú, Río Negro, Durazno and Tacuarembó, participated in this first edition.
Leticia Rebuffo, Math teacher for teacher trainees and the head of “Liceo 1” high school in Paso de los Toros was one of them. “There was a wide range of teachers taking part in the course, from Physics to Spanish professors,” she says.
The second component involves tools and material such as silicone guns, flashlights, screwdrivers, soldering irons, screens, and Arduino boards, that are provided to each institute to work on electronics and mobile autonomous concepts. With these elements, teachers are encouraged to manufacture objects like telegraphs or even small cars powered by elastic energy. This is followed by training in programming languages that are crucial to building rudimentary robots.
Valeria Rodríguez, a Computer Science teacher at “Liceo 3” high school in Fray Bentos also participated in the programme. Her students will use the tools and materials in a project that will involve different disciplines, such as Geography and Maths, to create a physical map of Uruguay. “I really liked that there were very simple projects that anyone could go through just by following the instructions,” says Rodríguez, recalling the teacher training courses.
Developing skills for the future
“Our aim behind the ‘Jóvenes Inventores’ project is to introduce the MAKER movement - based on ‘learning by doing’ inside the classroom,” explains Rodrigo Dearmas, co-founder of UYRobot. All their training focuses on doing, making, disassembling, and investigating.
“Globally, there’s a growing demand in the labour market for science and technology graduates,” he adds. This is why UYRobot incorporates the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educational approach into its training courses, to encourage young people to follow careers related to these areas of learning. UYRobot has been working in educational centres for three years, bringing robotics into the classrooms.
“Teaching robotics is important because it generates the capacity of abstraction, lateral and logical thinking in the student, and it promotes teamwork. This can all be done in a fun and engaging way,” says Dearmas.
Rebuffo agrees and says that students of all ages need to develop these in order to be better prepared to solve problems. In “Liceo 1” high school, students from 2nd, 3rd and 4th year are already working with robotics. Around 20 students are currently learning how to create their own artefacts based on the elements and tools the program provided them.
“I like working in projects and generating the capacity for the students to ask questions, to awaken their creativity, their capacity to investigate, to search around, to develop the potential that they often keep inside,” she adds.
After the training course, there are follow-ups with the teachers to reaffirm concepts and clear up doubts. “One of our aims is that every educational institution duplicates their participation in these types of events and that they can apply what they have learnt in the training into practice,” says Cuevas.
“We are very glad because this initiative has allowed us to share with teachers of different locations and living conditions,” adds Dearmas. “Each trip to the institutions has been an exchange of knowledge, questions, and ways to find solutions towards more inclusive education.”
About UPM Foundation
UPM Foundation promotes education, training and entrepreneurship in more than 150 rural communities located in the company’s area of operations throughout the country. The aim of the Foundation is to promote the genuine development of these communities in the long term, by aligning projects with social organisations with the aid of community leaders.
UYRobot seeks to encourage the inclusion of educational robotics and STEM teaching within formal and non-formal education, using robots as an integral and transversal didactic tool in the teaching of traditional subjects. It offers materials, tools and training in robotics-oriented education through courses, consultancy, technical support and robotic kits.
For further information about UYRobot visit www.uyrobot.com.uy or contact via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Text: Josefina Mösle