WATCH: Youth makes history, produces mini-computer prototype for export Children learn coding and robotics at a mini-weekend school set up by Masuku’s Sciency Learning in Bulawayo

Nqobile Tshili, [email protected]

A YOUNG Bulawayo start-up firm, Sciency Learning, has written its unique piece of history by becoming one of the first companies in Africa to manufacture a mini-computer prototype with its products already being exported to countries like South Africa. 

Sciency Learning is producing micro-controllers (mini-computers) from its laboratory in Bulawayo. These enable individuals to implement computer programming and have reduced the cost of production by at least 80 percent.

Company founder and chief executive officer, Mr Nkosana Masuku (29), said they were driven by innovation, which should drive the country’s development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as the cornerstone of a robust industrialisation agenda.

The youthful innovator is among the crop of enterprising Zimbabweans who are making a difference in the community as he already employs 15 people to promote science learning and the adoption of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).

His company has set the pace in teaching robotics, coding and engineering from infant levels to students at university who may want advanced equipment at their disposal.

“We have manufactured our own micro controller and it serves as a platform where students can programme their circuits and this is manufactured here in Bulawayo. We are the first ones to manufacture it in Africa,” he told Chronicle in an interview.

“So, this is like a mini-computer and the way it is innovative is that it uses fully through-hole components. It uses pieces where we can hand solder everything unlike the ones available in the market, which are manufactured by machines, which are very expensive. 

“By this, we have reduced the cost of this product by 80 percent by manufacturing it using a fully through-hole board and soldering it locally,” said Mr Masuku.

He described the mini controller as a mini computer, which is programmable and uses all sensors that can be used in the Internet of Things. 

Mr Masuku said they have already found a market for their innovations in South Africa and Botswana where they also have subsidiary units.

Mr Masuku has since established a mini-weekend school for children interested in learning robotics, coding and engineering, where he exposes them to cutting-edge technologies not found in formal schools.

His vision is to help the country develop problem-solving youths who can transform into global champions in the technological arena.

“We start teaching children as young as four years old to tertiary students. We teach them robotics, coding and engineering. We have laptops and expensive kits called ‘Legos Challenge’, which are used by global institutions as we are preparing them for global challenges,” said Mr Masuku. 

“We expose them to programmes that are not found in schools. We want to groom problem-solvers who can solve problems in the country and the continent as opposed to just having students who are just theoretical. 

“So, we present them with a number of challenges that they can choose to learn. There is already a student who has created a smart-walking stick for the blind and that one is almost going to production.”

Mr Masuku said his organisation is also working with Joanette Ngwenya, a Dominican Convent High School pupil, who recently made global waves by creating computer programmed sign language interpreters with a built-in translator.

Mr Nkosana Masuku with the mini-computer prototype

He said there is a need for the country to swiftly move towards embracing robotics, coding and programming at the infancy level.

 

“These projects are really important. We are really behind with curricula in terms of teaching that encourage hands-on applied learning. If we look at the future of workspace, the way jobs are going to be in the next decade is going to be influenced by artificial intelligence, robotics, coding and programming and our curricula should embrace that,” said Masuku. 

“In China, they started doing robotics and coding in 2003, so they have 20 years of harnessing this kind of technology and we need to move in that direction.”

He said while his organisation is teaching a handful of learners advanced coding, robotics and programming courses, the impact will be different if the programmes are mainstreamed in the education sector.

“For us to grow we need to start integrating these kinds of subjects into the education sector from a policy level. We need to integrate coding and robotics into schools so that it is easier for schools to start appreciating these solutions and problem-solving skills unlike what we are doing here where we are just harnessing just a few students,” said Mr Masuku. 

“The impact could be higher if students and pupils access these kinds of things when younger, it will make the youth self-sustainable by creating their own projects. We can create entrepreneurs who can create jobs and solve problems.” 

Sciency Learning has also partnered with international organisations that support the same vision and finance the projects. 

A Hillside Teachers College graduate, Mr Masuku who also studied Computer Science at the National University of Science and Technology called for more resources in advancing education. 

He said observing theoretical training in some practical courses remains a challenge for the country. 

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Torerai Moyo recently revealed that part of the education curriculum review process will see the Government introducing robotics and coding in schools. — @nqotshili

 

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