New East Digital Archive

Meet Armenia’s budding robot enthusiasts

12 September 2016

A firefighting robot with thermal sensors that can find and extinguish flames and a mine-sweeper robot are just two of the inventions to come out of Armenia’s thriving after-school robotics clubs.

The creators of the firefighting robot are brothers Rafael and Sahak Sahakyan — aged 18 and 14. More than 20 pupils are part of their school’s robotics club in the city of Gyumri, and they are certainly not alone in their enthusiasm for all things engineering.

121 after-school robotics clubs are already in action across the country, aimed at pupils aged 12–18, and the organisers at the Union of Information Technology Enterprises aims to establish engineering groups in every school by 2019. The government hopes that the scheme will encourage a new generation of engineers and inventors.

“For a country like Armenia which does not have great natural resources, information technology is a good opportunity to develop the economy,” said instructor Rafael Hekimyan, who believes that the project helps children develop independent thinking and will encourage future engineers.

The clubs use the Scratch and Turtle programming languages, with open source code created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to develop the software necessary for their inventions.

Despite their young age and the complexity of the task, the young engineers seem to have taken the challenge in their stride.

“It wasn’t easy,” says Sahak Sahakyan, whose robot made jointly with his brother will be entered into Armenia’s annual robotics contest. “We had to give a life to an inanimate piece of iron. Every day we tried new solutions to improve the robot. We had many failures but we hope to perfect in the next few months to enter the competition.”

Source: The Guardian