Site icon Ilse Lasschuijt

Stretching the mind with Marty the Robot

He’s is cute and quirky with an adorable personality. He can step forwards, backwards, side-to-side and turn –  and dance the African shuffle. Meet Marty, a programmable robot that helps children learn how to code. Twelve Kigali primary school kids will demonstrate their coding skills with Marty during Transform Africa May 14-17, 2019.

Learning how to code is like learning a new language, a computer language. And we all know how much easier it is to learn when you are young, right? Marty was designed with the intention of making programming fun and to let kids get acquainted with robotics in a playful way. “The Rwandan government has marked STEM as a priority in education, but many children in our school system lose interest in science because they don’t have access to the right tools”,  Benjamin Karenzi from Robotical Africa explains. “If Rwanda is to achieve its long-term vision of digital transformation, we need to fix the problem in the classrooms. Marty the Robot can really add value and transform the way ICT is taught in schools so kids can learn by doing.”  Marty comes with a rich online educational kit for teachers that bring the robot and computers together in the classroom and introduces children to fundamentals such as programming, electronics and robotics. 


The ingenious thing about Marty is that he leads children through a journey of progressive learning. The robot can be programmed with a beginner’s language like Scratch  – suitable for 7yo kids – but the learning continues  to  Python, C++, and Java for more advanced users. He’s also compatible with a full-size Raspberry Pi for more processing power and can be decked out with lots of additional sensors to increase complexity. 

Marty comes with a sheet of fun stickers,  including a moustache, red lips and eyelashes, which makes it easy to transform Marty into Martina. Karenzi: “Some kids like to personalize their robot, by disassembling the robot and even mix it with other toys . Others have organized egg-spoon races between their robots, added amplifiers to make them sing or added sensors to make them react to their surroundings” 

Karenzi came into contact with Marty and its creators at Roboticalwhen he was finishing his Master’s degree in Scotland. He was immediately convinced of its potential and when he came back to Rwanda, he pitched the idea with the Ministers of Education and ICT, both of whom immediately offered support to help him mobilize funds to introduce the robot to schools in Rwanda. 


Learning to write programs not only helps you think better but also stretches your mind

Bill Gates

Robotical Africa now partners with MTN Rwanda, among others. “A logical choice”, laughs Karenzi, “as it is in their own interest to train their future employees”.  Together they organized a workshop with intensive programming training for fifty students and their teachers  from three selected school in Kigali. “We hope to encourage kids to start a robotics and coding club at their school”,  says Karenzi.

Twelve students from the workshop will be eligible to show off their skills with Marty the Robot during  the Transform Africa Summit, 14-17 may 2019 in the Kigali Convention Center. They will take turns demonstrating their skills at the Government of Rwanda Pavilion and at the MTN Innovation Village for the duration for the conference.  At the same three-day event,  Sophia, the world’s first humanlike robot will also be presented. “Just look at Marty as Sophia’s little brother, the one that bridges the technology gap between kids and adults” says Karenzi.  

Bill Gates once said, learning to write programs not only helps you think better but also stretches your mind.  Learning how to code as a child, will develop problem-solving skills at an early age. Coding involves creativity, perseverance and analytical thinking. Now imagine a child who likes to play video games. What if he or she suddenly realizes it is possible to not just play, but also create such a game? By stretching the minds of our young generation in Rwanda, their inner world will be opened, and they can achieve anything.

photos by photogenix studio © 2019

This article was published in The Weekender in May 2019

Exit mobile version