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Robots invade classrooms: S$2.8m initiative rolled out to excite students about coding

Robotics & Maker Academy collaboration between the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore and Singapore Polytechnic (SP) will be rolled out to 30 schools over three years.

SINGAPORE: Up to 10,000 primary and secondary school students will soon get to try their hands at coding and robotics as part of a S$2.8 million Robotics and Maker Academy collaboration between the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and Singapore Polytechnic.

The initiative was announced by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the opening of the National Engineers Day and Singapore Mini Maker Faire Education Day 2014 on Friday (July 18). The event is jointly organised by The Institution of Engineers Singapore and the Science Centre Singapore.

The Robotics and Maker Academy programme will be launched in the last quarter of this year. It will target 30 primary and secondary schools and last till June 2017.

Haidar Akmal, like many 14-year-olds, enjoys catching the occasional movie. His favourite is "Iron Man" because of the sleek gadgets.

The movie sparked his interest and he joined his school's robotics club, where he learnt to programme and build robots.

Haidar, a Pei Hwa Secondary School student, said: "We learnt about programming, making a statement. It's discovering new things to help improve daily lives."

Like Haidar, more students can now experience robotics under the Robotics and Maker Academy, where they can take part in workshops and competitions and even create their own robots.

Through coding and programming robots, students can gain computational thinking skills -- a problem-solving method using computer science techniques which is considered one of the important work skills for the future.

Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman of IDA, said: “Singapore is working to build new engineering capabilities. We want to be the world's first smart nation, and so part of that is to have engineering capabilities of all sizes, all types and of all age groups.

“So really, working with young kids in the primary and secondary age groups gives us a chance to capture that excitement, that energy while they're young and we want to ensure that we feed that energy with programmes that allow them to explore."

It is hoped that students will take an interest in infocomm technologies and take up such careers in future.

Mr Heng said: "A career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics enables our professionals to have the power to create value, to develop solutions, and to create impactful innovations. This is a very important area and our education system must seek to enable our people to seize opportunities and take on challenges.

“We are committed to an education in science, technology, engineering and maths that not only imparts technical knowledge to students, but nurtures in them an inquisitive attitude, a creative disposition and an entrepreneurial mindset." 

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