As a child growing up in the 1980s, I was fascinated by robots. They lived in the realm of science fiction or some future, too far away for my young mind to grasp. The idea that robots would become part of everyday life, just a few decades later, is mind-boggling.
Only the brave or foolish would dare predict how technology will continue to evolve. One thing we know for sure is technology will change and further transform how we interact with the world. Such change poses a risk for those unable to access emerging technologies and who will get left behind as a result.
The risk of children being left behind due to a lack of access to, and interest in, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is something Shahram Honarzad identified when he arrived in PNG over 20 years ago.
The way Shahram saw it, students in PNG need to be technology-literate to adapt to the changing workforce. With this in mind, and knowing the universal allure of robots to young minds, he went on to establish the PNG Educational Robotics Lab (PERL).
Speaking at the Tech Community Meetup this past Tuesday, 18 June, Shahram said, "Coding is the new literacy, a must have, for every student.
"We must improve the skills of not only the students but the teachers also. We don't want any school left behind."
He went on to share his journey with the over 30 people from PNG's tech community, explaining how PERL is set up as a mobile lab that Shahram can take into schools around the country. "We have everything; you just need to bring us the students," said Shahram.
The presentation struck a chord with the audience, many of whom have had to find their way to learning about technology later in life. As one audience member commented, "We need training and education to access these opportunities and create solutions."
While Shahram shared his experience developing the program, the highlight of the evening was the robot he uses in programming demonstrations in schools.
As the robot laughed, danced, and responded to commands, it was clear that I am not the only once-young mind still fascinated by robots, as many laughed along and took photos with the robot following the presentation.
For details about upcoming Tech Community Meetups, please connect via https://www.meetup.com/en-AU/Techlab-PNG/