Zimbabwe Flying Labs resume outreach drone workshops
They say for anything to endure in this world, it has to be so inspirational that the next generations will be willing to take it up.
Actually, we have absolutely no idea if they ever said it; but it just makes sense to us that for a discovery to become generational, it has to transcend generations – literally.
Which is why we are so proud of the work WeRobotics started in 2015 through the Flying Labs Network; inspiring young people in the global south to take responsibility for their own problems and find drone and robotics-based ways of solving them. We have told the story of WeRobotics’ reason for existing a few times on this magazine; and the articles are well worth your time, if have not had the chance to read them yet.
The overriding challenge for Flying Labs has always been to create enough enterprising problem solvers in communities that have traditionally relied on foreign aid to inspire the next generations to carry the baton until the overreliance on outside aid is eliminated altogether.
Indeed, as one quote in a related article we carried last week went; WeRobotics wants to create local super heroes with its flying labs project.
“If you search for the words “drone pilot” online today, you’ll be flooded with images of men, particularly white men,” lamented Kickstart, a crowdfunding organisation that has partnered WeRobotics and its Flying Labs to put their achievements into children’s books. “When some of these Western drone pilots parachute into countries across the “Global South” to lead “social good” projects, local children will marvel at the flying robots. But they rarely see drone experts that look like them.
“And so the danger of the single story is woven with the harmful stereotype that the real experts are foreigners, typically white and typically male. This does not inspire children from local communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to consider that they themselves can become drone experts. That they too can learn how to use emerging technologies and apply them to tackle problems in their own countries.
“One simple way is to start early by showing them role models who actually look like them, who speak like them, who dress like them and who have faced the same challenges as them. One simple way is to introduce them to people behind Flying Labs and to share the projects they work on in the real-world. We want to show children in Africa, Asia and Latin America real role models who have a wealth of local knowledge and who are tech savvy and experts in leading their own projects to solve their own problems.”
The Zimbabwean leg of Flying Labs’ current social good project may not have a picture book for children planned in the near future yet, but it has enough super heroes who are practically inspiring the next generations from all walks of life to take up drone and robotics technology as a career.
With the COVID-19-induced lockdown now lifted for the whole country, the drone services provider has wasted no time in reaching out to the future generations.
Last week, the franchise took in ten young people whose backgrounds are such that they cannot afford an education that includes robotics engineering and let them have fun with the drones at a two-day workshop held in the capital, Harare.
“We are thankful to have had another group of young learners join us at Zimbabwe Flying Labs and Precision Aerial (the custodian of Zimbabwe Flying Labs) for our Drones & Careers workshop,” said Tawanda Chihambakwe, the Zimbabwe Flying Labs Managing Director. “We had ten young men, all from a previously disadvantaged background, participate in our two-day training exhibition which included theory and practical flight exercises.”
The students had a crash course in the basic tenets of drone technology and robotics, after which they took turns behind the remote controls of the drones that were available for practice.
“This is the kind of impact I signed up for and it’s such a privilege to be able to provide a space that gives exposure to technology for the next generation.”
And it might be small steps now, but for Tawanda, the aim is to take these workshops to all corners of Zimbabwe and make them a regular undertaking so they have a palpable impact.
“We have plans to run the workshops in Bulawayo (in the south west of Zimbabwe) and Mutare (in the east),” Tawanda says. “Which is why we are currently focused on building capacity by training people who will then run the workshops in these regions. The idea is to have the programmes running throughout the year and not just as a once off project.
“We need people on the ground who can run with it.
“Africa is rising and it starts here with transforming mindsets and unlocking new possibilities.”
Right there with you, Mr Chihambakwe, Sir. Let’s see if we can make engineering fun for all kids and unearth future solution providers to local problems.